March 30, 2010

Desert tortoise emerges, proclaiming spring in the desert

By Erin Dostal
Las Vegas Sun

Mojave Max emerges Tuesday morning from his burrow, an indication of springtime in the desert. A contest with Clark County students is tied to the desert tortoise’s emergence. (Courtesy of Clark County)

Mojave Max – the desert tortoise whose emergence means it’s springtime in the desert – came out of his burrow at 9:23 a.m. today.

That is one week later than when Mojave Max emerged last year, but is about the same as most years during the past decade, according to Clark County officials.

Like many reptiles, Max brumates – hibernation for reptiles – to survive chilly winters. Reptiles are cold-blooded, so they use external surroundings to regulate their body temperature.

Longer daylight hours, warmer temperatures and the tortoise’s internal clock are all factors in when Mojave Max emerges.

The earliest he has emerged was Feb. 14 and the latest was April 14.

This year, students in Clark County participated in the Mojave Max emergence contest. The student who guessed the date and time closest to Max’s emergence wins prizes, including T-shirts for his or her class and a laptop.

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, indicating another six weeks of winter on the East Coast and in the Midwest.

Now that six weeks have passed and Mojave Max has emerged, county officials say it’s springtime across the country.