Happy Groundhog Day. Mojave Max is better than Punxsutawney Phil.

cuter than Phil
Mojave Max, pictured here in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Clark County)
cuter than Phil
Mojave Max, pictured here in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Clark County)

Punxsutawney Phil is overrated.

Early Tuesday, the country’s most famous groundhog emerged from his burrow, saw his shadow and predicted six more weeks of winter. The annual Groundhog Day prediction takes place on a hill called Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania — approximately 65 miles outside of Pittsburgh. This year’s festivities were closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the announcement was live-streamed by the Pennsylvania Tourism Office.

Meanwhile, Las Vegans are expecting a high temperature of 69 degrees and a low of 49 degrees.

Groundhog Day doesn’t mean much to desert dwellers, but luckily we have our own measure of spring’s arrival: Mojave Max.

The Springs Preserve resident, like all desert tortoises, enters his burrow in the fall and begins brumation, the reptilian form of hibernation. He sleeps for four or five months and emerges when he feels conditions are right (longer daylight, temperatures).

Clark County calls the emergence of the desert tortoise “the preeminent indicator of spring-like weather in Southern Nevada and the west coast.”

Take that, Phil.

Groundhog Day marks the start of “Mojave Max Watch” and the chance for one elementary school student to win the county’s annual contest of guessing the tortoise’s emergence date.

The earliest date the tortoise has emerged was Feb. 14, in 2005. The latest was April 17, in 2012. Last year, Mojave Max emerged at 11:39 a.m. on April 1.

Last year, a fourth-grade student at Somerset Academy Sky Pointe won the competition.

Students can enter this year’s competition by visiting MojaveMax.com and clicking on “Emergence Contest.” The winning student will receive a laptop computer, outdoor gear and a year-long family pass to the Springs Preserve. The student’s teacher, classroom and school also win prizes.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.