Back off the woodchucks

| 29 Sep 2011 | 08:00

    To the editor: Groundhog Day is right around the corner and reporters from all over the country will descend on Punxsutawney for this made-for-television event. Too bad they’re not around the 364 other days of the year when the three “official” groundhogs (1 “Phil” and two “Phyllises”) live in a plexiglass cube. Groundhogs have a home range of 40-160 acres, but Phil’s “home” measures 10 x 12 feet. While groundhogs are voracious diggers and live mostly underground, the cage has no earth to burrow in or vegetation to gnaw on. Because they are on display year round, they are denied the hibernation that would normally engage in. Groundhogs are shy animals who avoid human contact. Being constantly on display and being hauled out in front of a boisterous crowd is undeniably stressful. These animals belong in the woods and fields, feeling sun on their backs and dirt beneath their feet, living freely, not stuck in a glass box. A new millennium calls for new traditions. If Punxsutawney wants to attract visitors year round, it should officially retire all the Phil’s and Phyllis’s and devise a fresh and innovative marketing campaign that doesn’t exploit harmless herbivores. Jennifer O’Connor People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals