Of all the animals at Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, none have achieved the fame of Shubenacadie Sam, our very own prognosticating groundhog.
Every February 2, Sam takes part in a long-standing North American tradition: Groundhog Day. According to superstition, if a groundhog comes out its burrow and sees its shadow on February 2, there will be 6 more weeks of winter. If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, spring will arrive early. This superstition comes from German communities in Pennsylvania who, more than a hundred years ago, were modelling old European traditions.
Every year, Shubenacadie Sam makes the earliest prediction in North America because the Sam family burrow is located in the Atlantic time zone. Sam predicts at 8am sharp local time. While Sam’s predictions have never been wrong, sometimes, the weather is wrong.
All of the groundhogs in the Shubenacadie Sam family are capable of predicting spring’s arrival; the skill is passed between generations. They prepare for the big day by eating a herbivore diet (leafy greens, fruit and alfalfa pellets), and by practicing yoga and meditation.
Groundhogs are hibernators. Every autumn they stay in their burrows and enter an inactive phase; their body temperature drops from 37°C to as low as 3°C, their heart rate slows from around 80 beats per minute to 5, and their breathing rate slows from 16 breaths per minute to just 1. During hibernation, groundhogs don’t stir or eat anything until spring.
You can visit the Sam family enclosure at the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park, but spotting a groundhog requires patience — they spend much of their time underground, especially during hibernation. Shubenacadie Sam souvenir options are available in the Shubenacadie Wildlife Park gift shop.
An interview with Shubenacadie Sam
Read Sam’s responses to a few questions to learn more about Nova Scotia’s most famous groundhog.
What are your nicknames?
Shubie Sam or Sammy.
How much do you weigh?
It depends on the season, but the camera adds 10 pounds.
What are your favourite foods?
Dandelion greens, clover, potatoes, carrots, apples and melons.
What is your favourite book?
Groundhog Night: Shubenacadie Sam’s Shadow by Doretta Groenendyk.
What is your favourite joke?
I can bear-ly believe you would ask that. You otter know, I love puns!
Do you have any hobbies?
Sunbathing, cloud watching, social media, eating, napping, digging, whistling and yoga.
What is your zodiac sign?
Taurus. I’m steadfast, reliable, hardworking and a bit stubborn.