Mojave Max tortoise emerges, marks spring's begun

Contest held to guess when the tortoise emerges

LAS VEGAS - Southern Nevada officials are declaring the start of spring after the region's tortoise mascot emerged from his burrow at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Clark County officials said Mojave Max came out into the sunshine at 1:45 p.m. Thursday after months of brumation, which is the reptile form of hibernation.

Max's debut is the subject of an annual contest that's 14 years running, with schoolchildren guessing the day and time he'll emerge.

The winner of this year's competition hasn't yet been announced, but prizes include a laptop computer and digital camera for the student. The winner's class also gets a field trip to Max's habitat, complete with a pizza party.

The earliest Max has emerged was in 2005, on Valentine's Day. The latest was last year, on April 17.

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