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Groundhog breaks the bad news to Plympton-Wyoming crowd

By Melissa Schilz, Postmedia Network

Oil Springs Ollie whispered the news to Mayor Lonny Napper on Friday – six more weeks of winter is in store. (Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Ntwork)

Oil Springs Ollie whispered the news to Mayor Lonny Napper on Friday – six more weeks of winter is in store. (Melissa Schilz/Postmedia Ntwork)

There will be six more weeks of winter, according to Oil Springs Ollie, a groundhog that broke the news to a crowd of onlookers at the public library in Wyoming Friday morning.

But the big rodent’s forecast didn’t worry Plympton-Wyoming Mayor Lonny Napper.


“I think he’s wrong,” said Napper laughed. “But six weeks will go by fast.”


Ollie, who lives in Oil Springs at Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue, has been making the Feb. 2 prediction for five years, and with mostly good results. But it’s not always easy. Rousing the groundhog during the winter months can be difficult, especially on a frosty morning.

Volunteer Tom Moore said Ollie was wakened at about 7:30 a.m. for his breakfast, in preparation for his annual prediction.


“Once he’s awake, he has his almonds, cut-up apple and carrots,” Moore said. “He wanders around but doesn’t get up to too much this time of year.”


Ollie made his decision at about 8 a.m. before being loaded into a vehicle for a trip to Plympton-Wyoming.


Napper said he was pleased to see Plympton-Wyoming selected as this year’s location for Ollie’s big reveal. With school children having the day off school for a PD Day, Peggy Jenkins of Heaven’s Wildlife Rescue held an educational seminar for anyone who wanted to participate.


“It worked out really well, the library jumped on board and they’ve got excellent staff here,” said Napper. “I’m glad everyone came out… now I can say in my lifetime I saw Oil Springs Ollie!”


The rotund groundhog lives in an enclosed outdoor shelter with a younger groundhog named Harvey, who Moore said is a bit more active than his elder. He stressed that while Ollie is friendly and rarely bites, he’s not a domestic animal.


“When we’ve rescued wild animals, they’re afraid,” he said. “But once we show them we’re not there to harm them, almost every wild animal will behave.”


Moore said within their massive enclosure, the two groundhogs love to dig. They can each move about 900 pounds of soil per day.


“They’re nature is just to dig,” he said. “And we’re not talking loose dirt, this is hard, compacted soil… and that’s day after day.”


The reason for this is the big rodents are constantly looking to improve their boroughs as a way of protecting themselves. They can create rather large tunnels, but also need to evade predators like weasels and foxes. If they have multiple dens, it’s easier to avoid capture.


Moore said the groundhogs are very hygienic animals, with separate enclosures within their den for where they sleep or answer nature’s call.


And when they move along from an old den, Moore said other animals like rabbits can then use those spaces. The work of groundhogs – largely underground and unnoticed – actually helps the environment greatly by moving soil and spreading seeds.


At Heaven’s Wildlife, some other wildlife being rehabilitated on site includes possums, skunks, and raccoons.


Moore encourages anyone who sees injured wildlife to reach out to them. They aim to educate the public on the animals’ importance to the ecosystem.


And he said if you’re looking to spot some groundhogs in the wild, Discovery Line in Petrolia is a great place to start.


“There’s always groundhogs on the south side,” he said. “So if you’re driving along in the summer, you’ll see groundhog holes, and you’ll see them sunning themselves on the ditch bank.”