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Tortoise Is Southern California's Groundhog Day Stand-In

Mojave Maxine has been in her den since Nov. 26, waiting for the warm sun and flowers to return.

With mild mid-winter weather in Southern California, it doesn't matter if the most famous groundhog weathercaster Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow or not on Feb. 2.

However according to legend, when the Living Desert's Mojave Maxine emerges from her reptilian hibernation, spring is said to officially start in the region.

That's why the is holding a Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest for students in K-12 grades in the Southland. 

The contest put on by the Palm Desert organization challenges students to guess the day and time Maxine will emerge for the first time each year.

"The Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest is a fun way to get students excited about learning about the desert tortoise," said Kyle Pong, Desert Tortoise Conservation Coordinator.

The winning entry will be awarded with a $50 gift certificate, a Federal Parks Lands Pass, a $100 gift certificate for the student's teacher, and the student's entire class will get a visit from a desert tortoise, along with Mojave Maxine T-shirts for everyone.

The contest will remain open until Maxine emerges from her burrow. Students in K-12 grades, enrolled in public, private and registered home schools in the following Southern California counties, are eligible to take a guess: Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura.

"The desert tortoise is California's state reptile and is listed as 'Threatened' on the U.S. Endangered Species List," Pong said. "The contest helps to create awareness about the desert tortoise and hopefully intrigues students and teachers to learn more about this wonderful herbivorous reptile."

This season Maxine has been in her den since Nov. 26, waiting for the warm sun and flowers to return.

For more information or to enter the contest go to www.livingdesert.org or www.mojavemax.com.

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