Herptology; What is a herptologist?

What a question in the middle of winter, however as spring approaches ~ “Where are the frogs?” is a most excellent query!!!

“Stewards of Saskatchewan” is a voluntary program of the provincial group Nature Saskatchewan.  With this program, volunteer stewards collectively monitor population data on various at risk species.  One of these is the Northern Leopard Frog, (Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens) designated as Special Concern in Canada

Please report to the Stewards of Saskatchewan SOS survey, if you sight one of the species on their list.  Did you know that April is Frog month? Celebrate Frog Month with your family!  Find out how to become an amateur herpetologist this April!

Where might be one of the places in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area where  a Northern Leopard Frog could be sighted?

The Chappell Marsh, the permanent wetlands of the West Swale contain water all the time.  But where are the temporary wetlands located?  This is exactly where the frogs are singing their merry songs.  This area for the lands east of  Chappell Marsh in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is marked as a yellow oval on the attached map.  The Northern Leopard Frog, sings just to the west of the southwest off leash recreation area.

FrogMap
Northern Leopard Frog, Rana Pipiens Map

Just as farmers watch the weather; “In dry years, arable agriculture can fail over large parts of the province, whilst in wet years, flooding has caused widespread damage to rural and urban infrastructure.” “(Pomeroy, 2005)

So, too, do the frogs seem to watch the weather.  During dry years such as those experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017 there were no frogs heard at the Richard St. Barbe  Baker Afforestation Area.  However in 2013 and 2014 frogs were a delight to the years, especially as the Northern Leopard Frog is a species of Special Concern.  As the weather cycles in the province, it can be expected that another year of flooding may follow the very dry years experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017.  The newspapers report the flooding damaging crops, basements and highways however the glorious thing which is missed on the years of high water tables, is that the frogs come back!

There are definitely other areas, such as where the old grid road is being swallowed up by Chappell Marsh near the road turn off to Chappell Marsh Conservation Area.  The old grid road is partially submerged, making it the perfect habitat for frogs [and ducks] as well.

Now then, it would be a very intriguing for a herpetologist,  volunteer ‘Steward of Saskatchewan’ or conservation officer to engage in a project to walk with a GPS app which records altitude.  This project would scan the entirety of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area and ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park for altitude levels similar to the altitude of the meadow west of the South West Off Leash Recreation Area.  Other areas which provide a rich habitat for the Northern Leopard Frog could be identified in this method for the areas west of Chappell Marsh and in ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park.  In this way during years of flooding the Northern Leopard Frog could be surveyed and counted in identified Frog zones.  And accordingly in the years of drought, the environment could remain undisturbed awaiting their safe return.  🙂

Perhaps, just perhaps, this would be a way to ensure the Northern Leopard Frog’s survival.  An altitude test may just help to find the temporary wetlands conducive to the frog’s habitat, and could then be protected from development.  Either that, or developers would need wait until years of high water tables before developing land to determine the habitat for frogs.

Saskatchewan cycles through years of drought and high water tables.  The years 2013, and 2014, saw very,  very high rain levels, spring run off and flooding.  Chappell Marsh itself washed out a grid road, and water pumps were allocated to try to divert the flooding away from Saskatchewan Highway 7 west of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, and CN Chappell Yards.  The cycle of very wet conditions was also seen historically over the years 2005, and 2006. (Garnet, 2012)

July 13, 2014, Emily Chan reported “In Saskatchewan, it’s estimated that a total of up to 3 million acres, including some farmland, have already flooded.”   “Highways closed and communities declared states of emergency …, ” reports the Canadian Press on June 30, 2014 due to a deluge of rain.

“From too much rain to not enough — and everyone baking in the heat — communities smashed weather records in July across Saskatchewan.”(Climenhaga, 2017)  Whereas, in direct contrast to the years of 2013 and 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported that 2016 was the hottest year on record, replacing the record set in 2015. In 2017, “Saskatchewan farmers say drought conditions in some parts of the province are the worst they have seen in decades “(Bridges, 2017)  “Record-breaking temperatures and extremely low rainfalls across Western Canada are causing chaos for farmers and firefighters this summer as they grapple with the worst drought in more than a decade.” {Sikierska, 2015)  Drought also ravaged Saskatchewan over the years 2001 to 2002. (Garnet, 2012)

“Nowhere else  in Canada does the lack or excess of water cause such widespread concern, nor are there many Canadian environments subject to greater seasonal change in precipitation and surface-water storage.”(Pomeroy, 2005)
Drought years have been recorded as 1961, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1988, 2003, 2009.  Whereas, the flood years are reported  as 1965, 1977, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2010.  (Garnet, 2012)
“The trees and vegetation which cover the land surface of the Earth and delight the eye, are therefore performing vital tasks incumbent upon the vegetable world in nature. The glorious rich, colourful, quilted covering of vegetation is not there merely to feed and please us. Its presence is essential to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition of all life; it is the ‘skin of the Earth, for without it there can be no water and, therefore, no life. ” Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Bibliography

2016 Annual Report of Agroclimate Conditions Across Canada Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Bridges, Alicia. Sask. farmers say drought conditions worst in decades. Farmers, ranchers face tough season due to hot, dry weather.  CBC News.

Chan, Emily.  Prairie farmers frustrated as flooding drowns crops.  Ctv News.  July 13, 2014

Climenhaga, Christy.   Regina experiences driest July in 130 years. July topped the charts for hot and dry weather in southern Saskatchewan. CBC News.  Aug. 1, 2017

Cross, Brian. Rising waters wash away land, farmers’ futures . The Western Producer. May 7, 2015

Flooding, highway closures as heavy rain pounds Prairies Canadian Press.  June 30, 2014.

Garnett, Ray and Madhav Khandekar.  From Drought to Wet Cycles The Changing Climate of the Canadian Prairies.  May 3, 2012.

Pomeroy, John, Dirk de Boer and Lawrence Martz.  Hydrology and Water Resources of Saskatchewan.  Centre for Hydrology Report #1.  Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan February 2005.

Reeve warns flood water could flow over Hwy 11 in Lumsden area CBC News.  May 5, 2013

Saskatchewan flooding: 37 communities declare state of emergency CBC News.  June 30 2014

Sask. Flooding >Flood-battered roads crumbling around eastern Sask. Culverts, bridges, train tracks washed out over a wide area CBC News. July 2, 2014

Siekierska, Alicja.  Hot, dry and disastrous. Western Canada’s drought is taking a toll. Edmonton Journal.  July 25, 2015

Top ten weather stories for 2010: Story three. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies.  Government of Canada.  Environment and Climate Change Canada.

For more information:

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, SK, CA north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com

Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map

Facebook: StBarbeBaker

Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Facebook: South West Off Leash Recreation Area SW OLRA

Pinterest richardstbarbeb

Tagged Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Twitter: St Barbe Baker

Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”.  Post to MVA 402 Third Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7K 3G5  Please and thank you!

Membership in the Saskatoon Nature Society  “supports nature conservation projects and [the society] is an active advocate for the preservation of plant and animal habitats”.

Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition ~ an active group interested in forest management~ or make a donation to “Save our Saskatchewan” [SOS] Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area  😉

1./ Learn.

2./ Experience

3./ Do Something: ***

 “We forget that we owe our existence to  the presence of Trees.   As far as forest  cover goes, we have never been in such a  vulnerable position as we are today.  The  only answer is to plant more Trees – to  Plant Trees for Our Lives.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker

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Where are the frogs?

What a question in the middle of winter ~ “Where are the frogs?” indeed.

“Stewards of Saskatchewan” is a voluntary program of the provincial group Nature Saskatchewan. With this program, volunteer stewards collectively monitor population data on various at risk species. One of these is the Northern Leopard Frog, (Lithobates pipiens or Rana pipiens) designated as Special Concern in Canada.

Please report to the Stewards of Saskatchewan SOS survey, if you sight one of the species on their list.

Where might be one of the places in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area where a Northern Leopard Frog could be sighted?

The Chappell Marsh, the permanent wetlands of the West Swale contain water all the time. But where are the temporary wetlands located? This is exactly where the frogs are singing their merry songs. This area for the lands east of Chappell Marsh in the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is marked as a yellow oval on the attached map. The Northern Leopard Frog, sings just to the west of the southwest off leash recreation area.

FrogMap
Northern Leopard Frog, Rana Pipiens Map

Just as farmers watch the weather; “In dry years, arable agriculture can fail over large parts of the province, whilst in wet years, flooding has caused widespread damage to rural and urban infrastructure.” “(Pomeroy, 2005)

So, too, do the frogs seem to watch the weather. During dry years such as those experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017 there were no frogs heard at the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area. However in 2013 and 2014 frogs were a delight to the years, especially as the Northern Leopard Frog is a species of Special Concern. As the weather cycles in the province, it can be expected that another year of flooding may follow the very dry years experienced 2015, 2016, and 2017. The newspapers report the flooding damaging crops, basements and highways however the glorious thing which is missed on the years of high water tables, is that the frogs come back!

 

There are definitely other areas, such as where the old grid road is being swallowed up by Chappell Marsh near the road turn off to Chappell Marsh Conservation Area. The old grid road is partially submerged, making it the perfect habitat for frogs [and ducks] as well.

Now then, it would be a very intriguing for a herpetologist, volunteer ‘Steward of Saskatchewan’ or conservation officer to engage in a project to walk with a GPS app which records altitude. This project would scan the entirety of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area and ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park for altitude levels similar to the altitude of the meadow west of the South West Off Leash Recreation Area. Other areas which provide a rich habitat for the Northern Leopard Frog could be identified in this method for the areas west of Chappell Marsh and in ‘George Genereux’ Urban Regional park. In this way during years of flooding the Northern Leopard Frog could be surveyed and counted in identified Frog zones. And accordingly in the years of drought, the environment could remain undisturbed awaiting their safe return. 🙂

Perhaps, just perhaps, this would be a way to ensure the Northern Leopard Frog’s survival. An altitude test may just help to find the temporary wetlands conducive to the frog’s habitat, and could then be protected from development. Either that, or developers would need wait until years of high water tables before developing land to determine the habitat for frogs.

Saskatchewan cycles through years of drought and high water tables. The years 2013, and 2014, saw very, very high rain levels, spring run off and flooding. Chappell Marsh itself washed out a grid road, and water pumps were allocated to try to divert the flooding away from Saskatchewan Highway 7 west of the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area, and CN Chappell Yards. The cycle of very wet conditions was also seen historically over the years 2005, and 2006. (Garnet, 2012)

July 13, 2014, Emily Chan reported “In Saskatchewan, it’s estimated that a total of up to 3 million acres, including some farmland, have already flooded.” “Highways closed and communities declared states of emergency …, ” reports the Canadian Press on June 30, 2014 due to a deluge of rain.

“From too much rain to not enough — and everyone baking in the heat — communities smashed weather records in July across Saskatchewan.”(Climenhaga, 2017) Whereas, in direct contrast to the years of 2013 and 2014, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada reported that 2016 was the hottest year on record, replacing the record set in 2015. In 2017, “Saskatchewan farmers say drought conditions in some parts of the province are the worst they have seen in decades “(Bridges, 2017) “Record-breaking temperatures and extremely low rainfalls across Western Canada are causing chaos for farmers and firefighters this summer as they grapple with the worst drought in more than a decade.” {Sikierska, 2015) Drought also ravaged Saskatchewan over the years 2001 to 2002. (Garnet, 2012)

“Nowhere else in Canada does the lack or excess of water cause such widespread concern, nor are there many Canadian environments subject to greater seasonal change in precipitation and surface-water storage.”(Pomeroy, 2005)
Drought years have been recorded as 1961, 1967, 1979, 1980, 1985, 1988, 2003, 2009. Whereas, the flood years are reported as 1965, 1977, 1986, 1991, 1993, 1999, 2005, 2010. (Garnet, 2012)
Taiwan is privileged with the humid and rainy habitats favorable for frogs, and the profuse rain providing the frogs a long reproduction stage makes Taiwan one of the best places for frog-watching.”{Government of Taiwan}  And it follows, that in Saskatchewan, the frogs, also fare better during the years the province cycles into a year with a high water table, rain and humidity.  Just as the Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris) is native to marshes, fens, ditches and wet woodland in temperate regions, the marsh marigold does not raise its yellow head in the years of drought, nor do the Northern Leopard Frogs sing merrily in the wetlands.  In the case of frogs, and marsh marigolds, both flora and fauna await seasons of moisture, and hunker down when drought and desert-like conditions appear.
“The trees and vegetation which cover the land surface of the Earth and delight the eye, are therefore performing vital tasks incumbent upon the vegetable world in nature. The glorious rich, colourful, quilted covering of vegetation is not there merely to feed and please us. Its presence is essential to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition to Earth as an organism. It is the first condition of all life; it is the ‘skin of the Earth, for without it there can be no water and, therefore, no life. ” Richard St. Barbe Baker.

Bibliography

2016 Annual Report of Agroclimate Conditions Across Canada Government of Canada Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.

Bridges, Alicia. Sask. farmers say drought conditions worst in decades. Farmers, ranchers face tough season due to hot, dry weather. CBC News.

Chan, Emily. Prairie farmers frustrated as flooding drowns crops. Ctv News. July 13, 2014

Climenhaga, Christy. Regina experiences driest July in 130 years. July topped the charts for hot and dry weather in southern Saskatchewan. CBC News. Aug. 1, 2017

Cross, Brian. Rising waters wash away land, farmers’ futures . The Western Producer. May 7, 2015

Flooding, highway closures as heavy rain pounds Prairies Canadian Press. June 30, 2014.

Garnett, Ray and Madhav Khandekar. From Drought to Wet Cycles The Changing Climate of the Canadian Prairies. May 3, 2012.

Pomeroy, John, Dirk de Boer and Lawrence Martz. Hydrology and Water Resources of Saskatchewan. Centre for Hydrology Report #1. Department of Geography, University of Saskatchewan February 2005.

Reeve warns flood water could flow over Hwy 11 in Lumsden area CBC News. May 5, 2013

Saskatchewan flooding: 37 communities declare state of emergency CBC News. June 30 2014

Sask. Flooding >Flood-battered roads crumbling around eastern Sask. Culverts, bridges, train tracks washed out over a wide area CBC News. July 2, 2014

Siekierska, Alicja. Hot, dry and disastrous. Western Canada’s drought is taking a toll. Edmonton Journal. July 25, 2015

Top ten weather stories for 2010: Story three. From Dry to Drenched on the Prairies. Government of Canada. Environment and Climate Change Canada.

For more information:

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, SK, CA north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com

Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map

Facebook: StBarbeBaker

Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Facebook: South West Off Leash Recreation Area SW OLRA

Pinterest richardstbarbeb

Tagged Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area

Twitter: St Barbe Baker

Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”. Post to MVA 402 Third Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7K 3G5 Please and thank you!

Membership in the Saskatoon Nature Society “supports nature conservation projects and [the society] is an active advocate for the preservation of plant and animal habitats”.

Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition ~ an active group interested in forest management~ or make a donation to “Save our Saskatchewan” [SOS] Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area 😉

1./ Learn.

2./ Experience

3./ Do Something: ***

“We forget that we owe our existence to the presence of Trees. As far as forest cover goes, we have never been in such a vulnerable position as we are today. The only answer is to plant more Trees – to Plant Trees for Our Lives.” ~ Richard St. Barbe Baker

Thank you to Cold Weather Angels

Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings
Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings

We have recently received word about the wonderous and caring help from Winter Angels who provided help to a stranded family of dog walkers and their dogs.

In these days of extreme cold weather, and drastic wind chill warnings, cars may start fine at home when plugged in.  However, after sitting in severe cold weather for half an hour to an hour, vehicles just may not start for the warm ride back home to safety.

A follower of this blog wrote in and expressed their gratitude to the many and several fellow dog walkers who were also out and about in the South West Off Leash Recreation Area, and offered a battery boost to them, a stranded family on the outskirts of the city.  However, in dismay, it was found that there were no battery cables to be had in any of the parking lot vehicles.

Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings
Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings

One couple went above and beyond, and rushed to their family’s home in Montgomery and came back to the stranded family with battery cables!  What amazing winter angels they truly were.  The stranded family did not catch their name, but wish to let them know that their assistance was greatly appreciated, and that they will “Pay it forward.”

So a hearty thank you is proferred to these amazing winter angels!

This winter it is good to be mindful of our neighbours and fellow dog walkers and lend a hand when we can.  If you are helped in such a way, please pay it forward to anyone you see in distress especially during this time of cold weather warnings.

Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings
Cars and Severe Winter Weather Warnings

Every act of kindness benefits the giver, as well as the receiver.
-Katrina Mayer

For more information:
Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city. 52° 06′ 106° 45′
Addresses:
Part SE 23-36-6 – Afforestation Area – 241 Township Road 362-A
Part SE 23-36-6 – SW Off-Leash Recreation Area (Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area ) – 355 Township Road 362-A
S ½ 22-36-6 Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area (West of SW OLRA) – 467 Township Road 362-A
NE 21-36-6 “George Genereux” Afforestation Area – 133 Range Road 3063
Wikimapia Map: type in Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Google Maps South West Off Leash area location pin at parking lot
Web page: https://stbarbebaker.wordpress.com
Where is the Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area? with map
Facebook: StBarbeBaker
Facebook group page : Users of the St Barbe Baker Afforestation Area
Facebook: South West OLRA
Contact the Meewasin Valley Authority in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The MVA has begun a Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund. If you wish to support the afforestation area with your donation, write a cheque to the “Meewasin Valley Authority Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area trust fund (MVA RSBBAA trust fund)”.  Post to MVA 402 Third Avenue South Saskatoon, SK S7K 3G5  Please and thank you!
Twitter: StBarbeBaker
Please contemplate joining the SOS Elms coalition or make a donation to SOS Elms ~ leave a message to support the afforestation area  😉

 

“How many lessons of faith and beauty we should lose, if there were no winter in our year!”–Thomas Wentworth Higginson

How to scientifically forecast the weather with a groundhog!

“Besides water, trees provide pure air. They are the great filtering machines for the human organism. They improve and transform the air in a way which is most favorable and most acceptable to the lungs of man.”~Richard St. Barbe Baker

Can you really scientifically forecast the weather with a groundhog???

Step One:
Where is a groundhog when you need them?

Groundhog (Marmota monax), has a plethora of names.  A groundhog can rightly be referred to as a woodchuck, or whistlepig, chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, digger and red monk and is a rodent of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) in a classification known as marmots. The groundhog is the largest squirrel found in its range, measuring in at 65 cm (16 to 26 in) long (which is inclusive of the 15 cm (6 in) tail) and weighing 2 to 4 kg (4 to 9 lb). In choice conditions, a groundhog may be as large as 80 cm (30 in) and 14 kg (31 lb). The groundhog can take to their burrow, climb a tree or swim away to flee from their predator. So how does a woodchuck compare to other common mammals in North America?

Groundhog - Marmota Monax Adapted from an image courtesy Cephas_CCxSA3-0
Groundhog – Marmota Monax Adapted from an image courtesy Cephas_CCxSA3-0

The American beaver (Castor canadensis) happens to be the largest rodent in North America weighing in at 11 to 32 kg (24 to 71 lb). The body from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail is 74 to 90 cm (29 to 35 inches) with the large flat tail adding another 20 to 35 cm (8 to 14) inches in length. Both Groundhogs and Beavers to get away from enemies and predators. The beaver’s entrance to the lodge or beaver dam is deep underwater as a defence against predators. The groundhog burrow opens up at the edge of a forest, near a tree or building.

American_Beaver Castor canadensis Adapted from image courtesy _Steve_CCxSA2-0
American_Beaver Castor canadensis Adapted from image courtesy Steve CCxSA2-0

Muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus), are about 41 to 64 cm (16 to 25 inches) in length, weighing in at .7 to 2 Kg (1.5 to 4 lbs). Muskrats love marshlands, and will make burrows or lodges out of cattails. In the water, they are distinguishable from the beaver as the muskrat tail will propel the rodent through the water by spinning around and around. The beaver’s tail lies flat behind them when swimming, or lowers in the water. The beaver’s tail is useful to sound a warning by lifting it up and slapping it down on the water surface making as large a noise and as big a splash as possible.

Muskrat Ondatra_zibethicus_Adapted from image courtesy AlexanderKlink_CCx4-0
Muskrat Ondatra_zibethicus_Adapted from image courtesy AlexanderKlink_CCx4-0

The badger’s name comes from the French word “becheur” which means digger.
Like the groundhog’s Latin name Marmota monax; Marmota meaning Mountain rodent, and monax meaning digger. Groundhogs do hibernate, but the American Badger (Taxidea taxus) enters into a torpor or deep sleep for perhaps up to three weeks. The American Badger is low to the ground measuring about 60 to 75 cm (24 to 30 inches) long with a weight of 7 kg (15 pounds). Badgers are belong to the family, Mustelidae and are mainly carnivorous. Badgers are not classified as rodents, but groundhogs, beavers, muskrats, and porcupines are rodents. And although one groundhog nickname is “thickwood badger”, the groundhog does not belong to the family Mustelidae, which only hosts the Muskrat, weasel, otter, ferret, and wolverine. Both groundhogs and badgers dig burrows, and have special adaptations for digging.

American Badger (Taxidea taxus) adapted from Image courtesy ODFW_CCxSA2-0
American Badger (Taxidea taxus) adapted from Image courtesy ODFW_CCxSA2-0

Porcupines (Erethizon dorsatum), are another commons North American rodent. the name from two Latin words porcus meaning pig, and spina, quill is very suitable. How does a porcupine compare in size to a groundhog? Well the porcupine has a round body 60 to 90 cm (2.0 to 3.0 ft), and the tail would add an extra 4.5 to 30 cm (5.7 to 11.8 in) in length. The stocky porcupine weighs in at 3.5 to 18 kg (7.7 to 39.7 lb though typically they are seen around 9 kg (20 lb). Porcupines don’t burrow like badgers, muskrats and groundhogs nor do they build burrows and dams like muskrats and beavers. Porcupines live in coniferous and mixed forests creating dens in hollow trees. Muskrats may be seen at dawn or dusk, and porcupines are mainly nocturnal, sleeping during the day up in trees. Where the badger is carnivorous, the groundhog, beaver and porcupine are herbivores. The muskrat is an omivore, mostly eating plants and cattails, but will eat aquatic animals to supplement their diet. The porcupine and beaver will eat tree bark, twigs, roots and stems along with other vegetation, the groundhog, also called a woodchuck, does not chuck wood, or eat trees.

Porcupine, Erethizon_dorsatum_Adapted from image courtesy Danielle Langlois_CCx3-0
Porcupine, Erethizon_dorsatum_Adapted from image courtesy Danielle Langlois_CCx3-0

Where a group of beavers is called a “colony”, and several badgers together are called a “cette” not a herd, or flock. Now then, a group of muskrats could be called a “colony, horde, pack, plaque or swarm.” Very appropriately a group of porcupines is called a “prickle”! There have been some discussions about what a group of groundhogs is called whether it is a “madness of marmots” or a” college of groundhogs”.

Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmota Monax) Range shown in orange.  Adapted from Image courtesy -Anreyostr-CCx2-5_3-0.jpg
Groundhog or Woodchuck (Marmota Monax) Range shown in orange. Adapted from Image courtesy -Anreyostr-CCx2-5_3-0.jpg

Using these essential elements as a foundation to find a groundhog, take your first steps to locate this most excellent weather forecaster. Groundhogs are usually found in areas where forest opens up into a field, road or marsh. So a groundhog has different habitats, eating habits, size and lifestyle from other large mammal rodents in Saskatchewan. Have you spied a groundhog in Saskatchewan? What about a groundhog in Saskatoon?

How Can a Groundhog Forecast the weather, Scientifically?

How can the groundhog be a “meteorologist” and predict the weather? Is it possible, or is it just a myth? Do not resist delving deep into this myth, it just may be grounded in truth and meteorological science!!!

Groundhog day is February 2, and it is rather an excellent bit of folklore about predicting spring. During the winter months, if the day is sunny the weather will be cold and brisk. It is during a sunny day when the groundhog may indeed see his shadow, and the stark chilliness of the day, may indeed entice the groundhog to turn tail and return to the warmth of his burrow. On the flip side of the coin, in the winter, if the day is cloudy, the weather is warmer from the cloud cover trapping in the heat from the earth. Therefore, on a cloudy day, the groundhog cannot see their shadow as there is no sun to create a shadow, the day is much warmer, and the groundhog may spend some time outside of his burrow suggesting that an early spring is around the corner.

So can this really be a way to forecast if spring will be coming soon, (because the groundhog did not see his shadow)?  Or can it foretell if spring will be yet another 6 weeks away because the groundhog did in fact see his shadow?

Don’t take my word for it, this is what meterologist Nick Walker has to say about winter cloudy and sunny days; “Cloud cover on a winter night means you can expect warmer weather, because clouds prevent heat radiation that would lower the temperature on a clear night.” r So to further explain the difference between a cloudy day and a sunny day in the winter time. “If there are no fronts or precipitation nearby, the daily temperature cycle is primarily controlled by the radiation budget. This is a comparison between the incoming radiation from the sun (sunlight) and the terrestrial radiation given off by the earth’s surface (felt as heat.)”

Walker further expounds that “sunshine is only one thing that affects temperature, and in winter, it is far from being the main thing. … The cold air at Earth’s surface is very dense and heavy, so it’s hard for clouds to form in that cold sinking air. So sometimes in winter, skies are very clear and temperatures are very cold. Also, winter is the time of year that the angle of the sun, especially in the northern U.S. and Canada, is so low in the sky that there’s never enough direct sunlight to warm the Earth very much even at midday with clear skies. And if there’s snow on the ground, the snow reflects a lot of the sun’s energy away, preventing the ground from absorbing it. So temperatures end up cooler than if the ground were bare. Even if the ground absorbs some of the sun’s energy, the heat radiates back up into space with no clouds to keep it near the ground. So when you look outside and see sunshine, you cannot assume it’s going to be a warm day.”

Speaking of weather fronts and clouds, another interesting fact about how no shadow may forecast an early spring is that when there is “a low layer of uniform, dark grey cloud,” then the groundhog would not see their shadow. Furthermore, this solid mass of cloud blankets the sky, then “when it gives precipitation, it is in the form of continuous rain or snow. The cloud may be more than 15,000 feet thick. It is generally associated with warm fronts.”Pilot Friend

So there you have it, resistance is futile. This is how the groundhog myth or folklore actually works scientifically to predict the weather. The Groundhog Day story that if a groundhog sees his shadow, there will be 6 more weeks of winter is actually based in science due to the effects of a clear sky with no clouds. And the folklore which exists on Groundhog day that if the groundhog does not see his shadow would mean that February 2 is a warmer day, and the cloud cover may have formed in conjunction with an incoming warm front.

“Besides water, trees provide pure air. They are the great filtering machines for the human organism. They improve and transform the air in a way which is most favorable and most acceptable to the lungs of man.”…~Richard St. Barbe Baker

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Alongie, Jenise. Badger FActs. Animal Facts Encyclopedia. 2011-2017
American Badger. Wikipedia.

Badger Wikipedia.

Bradford, Alina. Facts about Muskrats. Live Science Contributor. Jan. 28, 2017.

Groundhog. Wikipedia.

How to Predict the Weather Without a Forecast

Meteorology – Clouds Pilot Friend.

Muskrats – Water loving Rats. Pictures and facts.

Names of Animal Groups

North American Beaver Wikipedia.

Walker, Nick. Winter and Cold Weather Previously Asked Questions. 2007 Small Gate Media.

North American Porcupine Wikpedia.

Odd names for groups of animals flash cards. Quizlet.

Porcupine. Wikipedia.

For more information:

Richard St. Barbe Baker Afforestation Area is located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada north of Cedar Villa Road, within city limits, in the furthest south west area of the city.
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