Mojave Max, a desert tortoise who is like the West’s Punxsutawney Phil, emerged from his winter burrow this week to signal the start of spring. For more than 20 years, schoolchildren have competed in a contest to predict when Mojave Max will emerge from brumation (or hibernation for cold-blooded animals). This year was the latest, with an official time of April 24 at 3:40 pm.
Although the calendar start of spring is March 20, Mojave Max will only come out when it starts to feel like spring outside. “Warmer temperatures, longer daylight hours, and his own internal clock are factors known to contribute to his emergence every year,” according to the announcement by the Desert Conservation Program, which hosts the annual Mojave Max Emergence Contest.
Since the Las Vegas-based organization started monitoring Mojave Max in 2000, the earliest he’s come out was Feb. 14, 2005, at 11:55 am and the latest was April 17, 2012, at 12:41 pm. The DCP hosts the annual contest to encourage students to study the desert and desert tortoises, which are considered “threatened” under federal law.