Groundhog Day in Wyoming: Whistle Pigs & Lander Lil

White-tailed prairie dog
White-tailed prairie dog

In Pennsylvania this morning at about 7:25 Eastern Time, Punxsutawney Phil saw his own shadow, meaning that the master long-term forecaster predicted six more weeks of winter for the entire country.

If you're looking for a more local weather prognostication, Sheridan Game and Fish Information Specialist Warren Mischke helps us take a look at Groundhog Day in Wyoming.

Though the species of nationally-known Groundhog of Hollywood fame may not be found in our region of the country, there are still ways to recognize Febrary 2nd folklore, says Mischke.

Mishke was quick to mention another name for yellow-bellied marmots: "whistle pigs".

Everyone knows about Phil's other relative, the prairie dog. In Lander, the town actually celebrates Groundhog Day.

The National Wildlife Federation petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1998 to list black-tailed prairie dogs as endangered.

A keystone species, (meaning an animal that's preyed on by many others) the animals' populations are controlled by rattlesnakes, coyotes, and bobcats. They are also susceptible to “plagues” that can spread with fleas, but hunting was never restricted and populations in Wyoming are doing well Mishcke says.

Mischke says while looking for your weather prediction, be sure you're not on private land, where a large number of prairie dogs towns are found. And of course if you so choose, hunting prairie dogs does not require a license.

As for the nationwide report of more winter, since the inaugural Groundhog Day in 1887 Phil has seen his shadow 99 times.

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