HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Every year on February 2, world-renowned groundhog Punxsutawney Phil steps into the spotlight at Gobbler’s Knob to predict the weather.
A state lawmaker, however, wants to keep Phil front and center all year long in the eyes of Pennsylvanians by passing a Senate bill that would designate the groundhog as the commonwealth’s official rodent.
Senate Bill 1115, sponsored by state Senator John Kane, was referred to the state government committee on March 7.
As defined by the bill, a groundhog is part of the marmot family. They are large, heavy-bodied rodents attaining weights of 5 to 12 pounds and can be up to 2 feet long.
Despite being a part of the marmot family, groundhogs do not live in rocky mountainous areas. Instead, you can find them in lowland environments, like woodland and plain areas, where they play an important role in maintaining healthy soil.
Phil is not the only well-known Pennsylvania groundhog mentioned in the bill. Gus the Groundhog is the state’s second-most-famous groundhog as Pennsylvania Lottery’s brand ambassador for scratch-off games for the last 13 years.
“While it is not possible to attribute all profit to the ‘Gus’ campaign, Gus the Groundhog is an integral part of the Lottery’s comprehensive marketing efforts to responsibly sell entertaining lottery products and generate funds to support vital State-sponsored programs for older Pennsylvanians, such as property tax and rent rebates, transportation, care services, prescription assistance, and local services, including senior centers and emails,” reads a statement in the bill.
If passed, the groundhog would join the below list of the state’s symbols:
- Animal: White-tailed deer
- Tree: Eastern hemlock
- Flower: Mountain laurel
- Fish: Brook trout
- Insect: Firefly
- Amphibian: Eastern hellbender
The Senate bill remains in the State Committee as of July 15. To view the full bill, click here.