Palm Desert

A Palm Desert ‘Shell'ebrity May Soon Predict Spring's Start

Mojave Maxine, a desert tortoise living at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, is sometimes called California's own Punxsutawney Phil.

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

What to Know

  • The Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest is open at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert
  • The celebrated desert tortoise is brumating (a form of reptilian hibernation) as 2022 begins and is not on public view, but will be later in the winter
  • Spring in the desert is said to officially begin when she exits her burrow; SoCal grade school kids can guess when she might emerge

BALL DROPS, fireworks, special announcements, celebratory messages? As 2021 concluded, we kept a close watch on numerous wonderful things, those big, forward-looking moments that tell us the future is on the way. But now, our attention is on the desert, specifically Palm Desert, specifically The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the longtime home of one of the planet's best-known shellebrities. We do mean "celebrities," of course, but we are talking about Mojave Maxine, a colossally awesome critter that just might be the Punxsutawney Phil of California. Why? Because, like Pennsylvania's shadow-seeing groundhog, Maxine has become known as something of a soothsayer, at least when it comes to predicting the start of spring. But rather than spying her own shadow, the tortoise emerges from her burrow when spring is at the door, at least in her desert environment.

SHE'S CURRENTLY BRUMATING, which is how reptiles hibernate, as 2022 begins, but there's an excitement building far beyond her burrow. That animal-loving anticipation? It's due to the Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest, an annual and adorable competition created for grade school kids around Southern California. Students will be guessing just when they think Maxine will show her sweet face, with the hope that they'll land on the right day and time. And the kid that does just that? Cool: The student's class will receive t-shirts to celebrate the fun victory, as well as a virtual visit helmed by a biologist (and, oh yes, a desert tortoise will also make a rad cameo).

MAXINE MAVENS, read more about this celebrated shellebrity now, when she might emerge (it was Jan. 18 in 2021), and how you can see her, at The Living Desert, once her yearly brumation is complete.

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