Mojave Maxine, a 43-year-old desert tortoise who lives at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, helps determine the arrival of spring.
Each year, students in kindergarten through 12th grade in nine counties throughout Southern California are invited to predict when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her brumation (hibernation for reptiles) and make her first appearance of 2021.
Maxine and other desert tortoises typically enter brumation in November around Thanksgiving. Their bodies know when to go to sleep based on the outside temperatures and the change in daylight hours.
Sometime in the coming months, Maxine will awaken from her winter slumber and emerge from her subterranean burrow at The Living Desert, indicating longer, warmer days are on the way. The exact date of this annual occurrence is anyone’s guess.
“Mojave Maxine is a wonderful ambassador at The Living Desert, as she helps educate people about the plight of desert tortoises, which are threatened due to several factors, most of which are human-caused,” James Danoff-Burg, director of conservation at The Living Desert, said in a news release.
“This annual contest provides the perfect opportunity for students to learn about desert tortoises, how to help protect them, and have some fun guessing when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her burrow,” Danoff-Burg said.
The first contest entry received from each county that is closest to the exact day and time wins a virtual classroom visit from a desert tortoise and biologist, Mojave Maxine T-shirts for their entire class and a tortoise book for their teacher’s library, according to the news release.
Students from Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego andVentura counties are invited to participate in the contest.
Last year’s contest drew more than 1,300 students submitting predictions before Maxine emerged on the morning of Jan. 23.
The contest runs until Mojave Maxine emerges from her burrow, and a live video feed will be available online to watch for when Mojave Maxine appears.
To enter, go to livingdesert.org/mojave-maxine.