Many consider the groundhog a pest, and thus they have a fairly contentious relationship with humans. They annoy farmers by eating their crops, and their intricate burrows can cause damage to yards and fields. However, groundhogs actually provide some benefit, as their burrows help bring subsoil to the surface level, and abandoned burrows often become homes to animals like foxes, rabbits and skunks, which feed on insect and rodent pests.
However, in some areas groundhogs are also held in high esteem, mostly relating to the February 2nd celebration known as Groundhog Day, a festival in which a chosen groundhog is said to predict the extension of winter or the arrival of spring. According to the folklore, if the animal sees its shadow, it portends six more weeks of winter.
These festivals are held in several northern cities in North America, including Punxatawney, Pennsylvania; Sun Prairie, Wisconsin; Staten Island, New York; and Wiarton, Ontario. Each of these towns has its own celebrity groundhog, the most well-known of which is Punxatawney Phil. The origin of this festival may have its roots in the German tradition of Candlemas Day, when a badger or hedgehog would predict the coming season. Since there were no hedgehogs or badgers in the areas where early settlers from Europe established themselves in the United States, there were none of these animals, so the groundhog became a sort of stand-in.