At not even a year old, Murray the groundhog already has a great burden on his shoulders.
The Kansas-born rodent gets to decide whether the region will be relieved of the subzero temperatures and move on to spring.
He'll get some practice in first, and owner Cory Freeman is hoping that Murray will predict an early spring. She's been working on special accommodations for his Wednesday debut.
“We took a tree stump and cut it and made it into a carrier — it's huge,” Freeman said.
Once Murray makes his way out of the stump carrier, he'll share his decision first with Roundup Mayor Bill Edwards, who will then tell the residents of Roundup.
“He had a secret meeting with the inner circle and learned to speak groundhog,” Freeman said. “That way he can share his prediction.”
Murray will be making his prediction at noon Wednesday near the war memorial at the end of Main Street in Roundup, followed by a second prediction at Roundup's elementary school.
The prediction will be made as soon as a large enough crowd gathers.
When a friend in Kansas told Freeman that she had Murray and his brother, Howie, Freeman couldn't resist the opportunity of “putting Roundup on the map.” She had Murray sent to her Animal Edventure Sanctuary on the outskirts of Roundup.
The idea to debut him for Groundhog Day didn't fully surface until a member of the community approached her.
“It's a great way to do that and be part of something great,” Freeman said. “I want it to become an annual tradition and get people involved.”
If things go well, Freeman hopes to bring the event to Billings, too. It will all depend on how Murray does this first time around.
Since Murray hasn't hibernated this year, he seems as if he'll be up for the challenge.
“They are very high-energy creatures,” Freeman said.
Murray lives in Freeman's home for now and spends his time playing with their blond-haired dachshund. She can't let Murray outside until a proper pen is put in place.
“They dig unbelievably well — better than a badger,” Freeman said.
His name was purely coincidence. Freeman said his previous owner had thought to call him Murphey, but Freeman was partial to Murray.
It wasn't until later that she found out the more famous ties to the groundhog's new name.
“I'm not a movie person,” Freeman said after discovering that actor Bill Murray starred in the 1993 movie “Groundhog Day.”
“Everyone started telling me about the movie, which I'm embarrassed to say I haven't seen yet,” she said.