Feb 2, 2013 8:18 PM by Bernie Riggs - KPAX News
STEVENSVILLE - Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow on Saturday morning, but Western Montana has its own version of the famous groundhog. Reporter Bernie Riggs went out searching for the shadow of Bitterroot Bill.
There are three different kinds of groundhogs or marmots here in Montana, including the Yellow-bellied Marmot at the Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge, and on Saturday, folks had an opportunity to learn more about the animals.
"What could be cooler than actually celebrating an animal on a calendar day at a refuge? And it's really awesome to get people outside reconnected with the land," said the refuge's Bob Danley.
Punxsutawney Phil has it pretty easy in his heated tree trunk, but Bitterroot Bill and the rest of his Yellow Bellied Marmot family are of a little hardier variety.
During the winter months, marmots lower their body temperature to a few degrees above freezing and their heart rate slows down to about four or five beats a minute.
Even though it was a beautiful day at the refuge, it's still a little early for the critters to be out and about. Hibernation usually ends in March or April.
"Since we did not see our marmot to declare what's going to happen we have out little artificial marmots," Stevensville Mayor Gene Mim Mack said.
"Clearly shadow. They saw their shadow. Six more weeks of winter, but due to the power invested in me we declare that null and void. It's Spring!" Mim Mack declared.
That's probably wishful thinking for many of us here in Montana.
The Lee Metcalf Wildlife Refuge is host to about 25 different types of mammals and over 200 different species of birds.