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GROUNDHOG DAY

‘Absolutely destitute of any interesting qualities’: New Hampshire’s beef with groundhogs, explained

The state once tried to eradicate them from the state via a short-lived but wildly successful bounty on their pelts

Groundhog Club handler A.J. Dereume holds Punxsutawney Phil, the weather prognosticating groundhog, during the 138th celebration of Groundhog Day on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pa., Friday, Feb. 2, 2024. Phil's handlers said that the groundhog has forecast an early spring.Barry Reeger/Associated Press

Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring Friday at Gobbler’s Knob in Pennsylvania, the scene of the country’s largest and best known Groundhog Day celebration.

While early spring may be welcome, in New Hampshire, the Groundhog day is met with far less fanfare.

Far from celebrating groundhogs, New Hampshire once tried to eradicate them from the state via a short-lived but wildly successful bounty on their pelts.

The state paid $12,206 in groundhog bounty claims for the fiscal year ending June 1885. At 10 cents per pelt, that amounted to more than 120,000 groundhogs — or woodchucks, as they were called then.

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The bounty, which was repealed soon after, was the result of a legislative committee appointed to study the critters. Their view was decidedly negative.

Declaring the animals “not only a nuisance, but also a bore,” state Rep. Charles Corning called them “absolutely destitute of any interesting qualities” and “one of the worst enemies ever known to the farmer” in his 1883 “Report of the Woodchuck Committee.

The current groundhog population in New Hampshire is unknown, though they remain a frequent problem for gardeners, according to the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension.

Its experts don’t recommend killing them, however, noting that their burrows provide shelter for other animals. Instead, officials recommend fencing as a way to keep them from devouring veggies.