Mojave Max: The Tortoise Who Brings Spring

Discussion in 'Other U.S. Destinations' started by NileGuide, Feb 9, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. [​IMG]Back in wintry Pennsylvania, Punxsutawney Phil, that famous groundhog, didn’t see his shadow this year, which supposedly means an early spring. Out here in the West, where snow rarely dares to fall in winter, we don’t rely on rodents to predict the seasons. Instead, we wait for Mojave Max, a desert tortoise, to emerge from his burrow–and that’s not a prediction of spring. That’s when spring has officially arrived.​
    Mojave Max lives outside of Las Ve[​IMG]gas at the Red Rock Canyon Visitors’ Center (and he has counterparts in California and Utah). Desert tortoises make their homes in burrows to escape the heat, and that’s where they retreat to in fall for their winter brumation, the reptilian version of hibernation. Every year people take a guess as to when Max will leave his burrow to indicate that winter is over. He usually comes out in March, although he has appeared as early as February 14. As soon as the temperatures warm up enough and the days get longer, Max’s internal spring detector goes off and tells him it’s time to go outside.
    [​IMG]Desert tortoises like Max live throughout the Southwestern United States. In the Mojave Desert, they are a threatened species, due to a number of factors, including habitat destruction. Several desert tortoises live at the Red Rock Visitors’ Center, although Max obviously is the celebrity in the group.
    All photos taken at the Red Rock Canyon Visitors’ Center. Tortoise pictured is one of Max’s roomies. Photos courtesy of Terrisa Meeks.

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