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May 4, 2015

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Mojave Max emerges to signal beginning of spring

Desert tortoise leaves his burrow at Red Rock Canyon


Courtesy Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association

Mojave Max explores his pen at Red Rock Canyon’s visitor center Tuesday shortly after emerging from his burrow for the spring. Max’s return to activity is said to mark the start of spring in Southern Nevada.

Click to enlarge photo

Mojave Max explores his pen at Red Rock Canyon's visitor center Tuesday shortly after emerging from his burrow for the spring. Max's return to activity is said to mark the start of spring in Southern Nevada.

Spring has arrived in Southern Nevada, according to Mojave Max, the desert tortoise that serves as Las Vegas’ version of Punxsutawney Phil.

Mojave Max emerged from his burrow at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area at 2:03 p.m. Tuesday, nine days after the spring equinox and nearly two months after the groundhog in Pennsylvania predicted an early spring.

Desert tortoises enter a burrow each fall to brumate, the reptilian form of hibernation. The timing of the tortoise’s exit is influenced by temperature, the length of days and the animal’s internal clock, officials said.

In the last decade, Max has emerged as late as April 14 (in 2008) and as early as Feb. 14 (in 2005).

This year, March’s weather was mixed, with some early warm days followed by cold, said Christina Gibson, spokeswoman for the county’s Desert Conservation Center. But Max wasn’t fooled, she said -- he actually dug deeper into his burrow, waiting to come out until the cold was over.

The county, Clark County School District, Bureau of Land Management and the Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association have used Mojave Max as the basis for a contest for more than 10 years. Local students guess when the tortoise will emerge.

The winning student will get a year pass to federal lands and a laptop computer, and the student’s class will receive a field trip to Mojave Max’s habitat, medals and T-shirts. The winning student’s teacher also will receive a laptop.

Officials are tabulating the entries now and will announce a winner in a few weeks, Gibson said.

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  1. Excuse me, didn't the REAL (or first) Mojave Max die last year or the year before even? I vist the park whenever I am in town and definitely remember that. They could at least say Max2 and be honest about it!

  2. Hi palomino50, you are correct. The original Mohave Max died June 30, 2008, of natural causes at an estimated age of 65. His 19-year-old successor, the current Mohave Max, was chosen in October 2008 to carry on the tradition.

  3. Forget that I have never heard of Mohave Max (I'm pretty, however, with Kierkegaard), I'm happy to have met him through this story. Next year, I'll be more alert to this sort of event, as it's such respite in the news today. Moreover, thanks for teaching me a new word, "brumate."

  4. Palamino50, yep, Red Rock currently houses the second Mojave Max. He is approximately 19 years old and a bit smaller than the original.

    To answer your question about calling him Max2, we considered it, however, if you think about other animal characters there was no "Shamu 2..." or "Lassie 2..."

    So we are not being dishonest, when asked or inquired we tell people the truth about the past and current Max's.

    I once had a professor that named his dogs the same name as one passed on.

    Enjoy the spring, flowers are just starting to come out, in another week or two we will be popping with color.