Groundhog Day just isn't the same in Sarah Palin's Alaska

In Alaska, groundhogs don't have their day on Feb. 2, but marmots do – thanks to a local senator and former Gov. Sarah Palin. (Hey, what's a marmot, anyway?)

Jonathan Alcorn/ZUMA Press/Newscom/File
A marmot snacks on vegetation at Paradise in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington.
Gene J. Puskar / AP
Punxsutawney Phil after emerging from his burrow on Gobblers Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., to see his shadow and forecast six more weeks of winter weather Tuesday.

Punxsutawney Phil plus Sarah Palin, together in the same story. It’s a journalist’s dream.

OK, maybe not every journalist. But we’re not making this up: Punxsutawney’s predictive powers don’t extend to the Frozen Frontier, because last year then-Gov. Sarah Palin signed a bill to make Feb. 2 Marmot Day in Alaska.

Groundhogs – also known as “whistle-pigs” and “land beavers,” in case you’re interested – aren’t common in Alaska. They are a lowland species. Cosmopolitan. Probably Democrats. You can hear their distinctive chirp here.

The Alaska marmot, on the other hand, is a specific species found in the scree slopes of the Brooks Range. They eat grass and flowering plants, and in captivity have expressed interest in local tea party groups.

That last point isn’t true, but you can listen to their call here.

Hear the difference? Yeah, we couldn’t either.

The Marmot Day legislation was introduced by Alaska state Sen. Linda Menard, a Republican from Wasilla, ex-Governor Palin’s hometown.

Senator Menard says the move just made sense, due to the lack of local groundhogs. The legislation did not give the local marmots any weather-forecasting duties. (For other critters thought to foreknow the weather, click here.)

We’d say that “six more weeks of winter” is a pretty good prediction for Alaska any day of the year, but that would be parochial. It’s not like Punxsutawney Phil is living in the British Virgin Islands, anyway.

And yes, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this year. In Washington, that means at least six more weeks of wrangling over healthcare reform.


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