May 8, 2009

It’s spring in Las Vegas: Mojave Max emerges

By Jeff Pope
Las Vegas Sun

Mojave Max. (BLM)

The temperature topped 80 degrees in Southern Nevada on March 18 and Major League Baseball opened the season on Sunday.

But it didn’t officially become spring in the Las Vegas Valley until Tuesday when Mojave Max, the desert tortoise, emerged from his burrow at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center. Clark County’s prognosticating weather tortoise emerged officially at 2:37 p.m.

This was the first emergence of the current tortoise known as Max. The previous tortoise died June 30 at an estimated 65 years of age.

The current Max is a male, about 19 years old, that was picked up along Interstate 15 and turned in to the Gabriel Humane Society in California.

Like other Southern Nevada reptiles, he enters a burrow to brumate -- the reptilian form of hibernation -- every winter and emerges when temperatures are right and the days are longer.

Mojave Max has emerged as late as April 14 and as early as Feb. 14 in past years.

Clark County has sponsored a Mojave Max emergence contest so school children can guess when the tortoise will leave his burrow in the spring.

The entries are being tabulated and the official winner will be announced soon. The winning student will receive a year-long pass to federal parks and a laptop computer. The winner’s entire class will receive a field trip to Mojave Max’s habitat, Mojave Max Olympic-style medals and T-shirts, while the winner’s teacher will receive a laptop computer.