Can a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil really predict a long winter? Scores of believers think so, and there might be something to the idea that animals and wildlife can predict the weather.
Native Americans used to watch where bears hibernated — near the den opening meant a mild winter, farther away signaled a cold one. They also observed the feet of snowshoe hares. In this case, wider footsteps meant furrier feet and heavier snow to come.
To be sure, some of the legends seem like, well, legends. Does a cow lying down signal rain? Does a cats’ frenetic grooming forecast a storm? But in 1975, Chinese officials observed erratic animal behavior and evacuated 1 million residents from a city later struck by a 7.3-magnitude earthquake.
Scientists agree on certain truths: That animals rely on their senses more than we humans do. Which is why birds and fish that sense a change in air and water pressure fly higher or swim deeper before a hurricane.