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City news, 04.02.2005 17:26

Marmot's Day

Marmot's Day The steppe marmot from the Leningrad Zoo will sleep on Marmot's Day, chief of the IT department of the Zoo Boris Topolyansky told RIA Novosti.

Marmot's Day which has become widely known in Russia thanks to the film bearing the same name is traditionally marked in the USA on February 2. According to a legend, on this day at a small town of Punxsutawney marmot Phil predicts weather. They say that if the marmot, having come out of the hole, sees its shadow, i.e., the day will be sunny, it will go away to sleep for six weeks more. If there is no shadow spring will come soon.

The tradition is rooted in German rites. As a matter of fact, not a marmot but a badger participated in them, and people watched the animals' behavior not in February but in March.

In Europe bears and hedgehogs, which also hibernate in winter, competed with marmot in predicting weather.

"Already for many years the steppe marmot living in the Leningrad Zoo even does not intend to awake at the beginning of February. The Petersburg winters are much longer and colder than the Pennsylvanian ones. The steppe marmot sleeps, having buried itself in hay. Hedgehogs, which hibernate in burrows, also do not intend to awake until spring comes, and spring, as they believe, will come not earlier than in March along with the spring warming," Mr. Topolyansky said.

According to him, two years ago, in a severe Petersburg winter, the marmot went out into the street when the temperature was 30 degrees below zero Celsius, wandered a little, and went back to sleep.

The Petersburg steppe marmot has no name, with personnel calling it simply "marmot". "It has been living in our Zoo already for a few years but I would not say that it is aged, it is rather not a youth any longer," Mr. Topolyansky said and added that the marmot has no girl friend yet but the Leningrad Zoo plans to buy a she-marmot.

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