LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Tuesday, Feb. 2 is Groundhog Day, which signals the unofficial countdown to spring.
Here, in Southern Nevada, that countdown includes the official “Mojave Max Watch.”
Mojave Max is a real live tortoise that lives at the Springs Preserve. Although the live Mojave Max is still in brumation (reptilian form of hibernation), all students from Clark County, Nevada, in grades K-5, who are enrolled in public, private and registered home schools are encouraged to enter a guess as to when they think Max will wake up from his long winter nap.
Mojave Max has hosted the annual Mojave Max Emergence Contest since 2000 and has become the preeminent indicator of spring-like weather in Southern Nevada and the west coast.
While Punxsutawney Phil is awakened in the wee hours of the morning, Mojave Max takes a more relaxed approach to signaling the beginning of spring: hit the ‘snooze’ button and emerge when he’s good and ready. What’s he waiting for? The moment when the daylight gets longer and temperatures are just right before coming out from his burrow and proclaiming spring.
Like all desert tortoises, every fall when the hot Las Vegas weather cools off, Max goes into his burrow to begin brumation. He sleeps for four or five months and then emerges sometime in the spring, signaling the beginning of the season.
Clark County, along with its partners, hosts the annual Mojave Max Emergence Contest, education programs and school assemblies in support of Mojave Desert environmental education. As part of the contest, students are encouraged to guess when Mojave Max will first exit his burrow each year.
To enter the contest, you can log onto their website and click on the “Emergence Contest” button.
The Clark County student who guesses closest to the actual time of Max’s emergence, without going over, wins the contest for his or her classroom. The winning student receives his or her own laptop computer, a backpack filled with outdoor gear for exploring the desert, a laptop computer for his or her teacher, T-shirts and Olympic-style medals for the winning class, a trophy for their school, and a pizza party and field trip to the Springs Preserve to meet the live Mojave Max.
The winning student also receives a year-long family pass to the Springs Preserve and a year-long pass that can be used at all federally managed fee areas.
Questions about the live Mojave Max tortoise should be directed to Tom Bradley with the Las Vegas Springs Preserve at (702) 822-8365.