A 43-year-old desert tortoise celebrated for her season-changing perception poked her head out of her subterranean burrow at the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, signaling spring is near, it was announced Tuesday.
Mojave Maxine emerged from her winter’s nap five days earlier than she did last year, according to James Danoff-Burg, director of conservation engagement at the Palm Desert zoo.
“The temperatures this January have been extremely warm – in the upper 80s, so it’s not surprising that Maxine predicts an early spring,” he said. “Interestingly, this marks the eighth year in a row that she has debuted several days earlier than the previous year. This continuing trend seems to reflect a warming climate.”
Maxine went underground to begin her “brumation” — hibernation for reptiles — this season around Thanksgiving. Tortoises’ bodies know when to go to sleep based on the outside temperatures and the change in daylight hours.
Students from schools throughout Southern California were previously invited to submit their predictions on when Maxine would make her 2021 debut. Zoo officials said the winners of this year’s contest will be contacted soon.
The student with the first contest entry from each county closest to the exact day and time of Maxine’s arrival will win a virtual classroom visit from a desert tortoise and biologist, along with free “Mojave Maxine” T-shirts for their entire class and a tortoise book for their teacher’s classroom.
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