The groundhog saw his shadow Tuesday, which could signal an early spring. But in Southern Nevada, we now wait for Mojave Max to come out of his burrow.
The desert tortoise is the local version of Punxatawney Phil and when he comes out of the burrow at the Red Rock National Conservation Area, it marks the unofficial start of spring. Mojave Max went into brumation in November after temperatures cooled down.
A key difference between the tortoise and groundhog is that Punxatawney Phil is brought out of his burrow while officials wait for Mojave Max to make his way out. Another difference, is that Phil predicts the end of winter, while Max indicates when spring has started.
"He's definitely an indicator of spring," says Heather Greene with the Desert Preservation Program. "We consider when Mojave Max emerges from his burrow to be the start of spring-like weather."
Children around Clark County take guesses as to when the tortoise will reappear. He has emerged as early as Feb. 14, and as late as April 15.
Anyone can enter the contest, but only one lucky winner from Clark County in grades K-12 who is enrolled in public, private or registered home schools is eligible to win. The grand prize winner and his or her entire class will win T-shirts, Mojave Max Olympic-style medals, a pizza party and a field trip to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to see the real Mojave Max.
The winner also receives a laptop computer, a digital camera, and an “America the Beautiful” year-long pass to National Parks and Federal Recreational areas. The winner’s teacher will receive a laptop computer.
To enter the contest, log on to MojaveMax.com and click on the “Emergence Contest” button.