Please note: All non-member Zoo tickets must be pre-purchased online or at the onsite kiosks.
Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens. Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens.

Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest

The 2023/2024 Mojave Maxine Contest has now closed!

The East coast has Punxsutawney Phil and Groundhog Day to let them know when they can expect spring. California has Mojave Maxine, the desert tortoise, to signify that warmer weather is on the way.

Who is Mojave Maxine? Mojave Maxine is a desert tortoise that lives at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, California. Maxine and her tortoise roommates typically enter brumation around Thanksgiving. Brumation is how desert tortoises and other desert reptiles survive the cold winters – they sleep through them in their insulated, underground burrows. 

Enter the Contest: Students (grades K-12) in San Bernardino, Imperial, and Riverside counties have the opportunity to guess when Mojave Maxine will emerge from brumation in the spring. The student whose guess is closest to the date and time when Maxine emerges from her burrow for the first time this spring will win the contest prize. In the event that two guesses are equally close, the winner will be the student who submitted their guess first.

The Prize: The student who wins the contest will receive T-shirts for their entire class of up to 36 and a visit* to The Living Desert, where they can meet a desert tortoise! Each of the three eligible counties will have one winner. The class trip to the zoo must be scheduled within three weeks of being notified of winning, for a date prior to May 31st, 2024.

*Prize includes admission to The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens and exclusive experience with a desert tortoise facilitated by a staff member. Transportation to The Living Desert is not included. 

Before picking the date and time you think Maxine will emerge – we suggest you learn more about desert tortoises, as it will help you make an even better prediction.

Good luck with your guess – and remember to always cover your trash, stay on designated trails, and please don’t touch or move wild desert tortoises!


The Living Desert is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest. Congratulations to the following schools:

  • Official Mojave Maxine Rules

    1. Eligibility for prizes is restricted to students of grades K-12 enrolled in a public, private or registered home school, youth group, scout troop or scholastic organization with a class size of up to 36 students. Prizes are awarded to the first student to enter the closest date and time to when Maxine emerges from her burrow for the first time in the spring. Winners must be Southern California students in the counties of: San Bernardino, Imperial, and Riverside. One prize per county will be awarded.   

    2. Students must have the permission of their teacher(s) and parent(s) or guardian(s) to enter.  

    3. Students must enter the contest online at Students are not required to own a computer. Students may enter from a public computer such as one at a school or public library. The online entry form must be completely filled out. Incomplete entries will be disqualified. Teachers, parents, guardians, or volunteers may assist. Paper entries are not accepted.  

    4. Students may enter the Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest only once per year. Only the first entry per student per year will be accepted.  

    5. The Living Desert must be able to contact the student’s school or organization. The appropriate media release form must be completed for the student to be recognized as the winning entry. The recognized winners will be notified through their school, principal, teacher or organization leader.  

    6. In the event that the first place winner is not eligible, an alternate will be chosen. 


  • How to make a good guess

    Dear Students, 

    My name is Mojave Maxine and I live in the desert tortoise habitat at The Living Desert. I’ve been living here since April of 1997, and I’m about 45 years old. 

    Every fall, when I feel a chill in the air and I notice the days getting shorter, I go into my burrow and enter a state of sleep called brumation. Brumation is the reptile version of hibernation – it’s our long winter sleep. While in brumation, I avoid the cold winter temperatures and conserve my energy as I wait for spring to arrive. 

    The Living Desert hosts a contest each year for students in Southern California to guess the date and time that I will emerge from my burrow for the first time in the spring. 

    Last year, hundreds of students from Southern California entered the Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest to guess when I would make my first appearance. I hope that you will try to guess when I will emerge this year. The best way to make a good guess is to learn a bit about desert tortoises and look at my previous emergence dates in the table below. 

    Good luck with your guess – and remember to always cover your trash, stay on designated trails, and please don’t touch or move wild desert tortoises! 

    Stay Wild, 

    Mojave Maxine 

    2006 Februray 9 No time records before 2009
    2007 February 15 No time records before 2009
    2008 February 10 No time records before 2009
    2009 February 24 1:52 p.m.
    2010 February 13 2:30 p.m.
    2011 February 19 11:38 a.m.
    2012 February 25 11:33 a.m.
    2013 March 2 10:17 a.m.
    2014 February 17 11:53 a.m.
    2015 February 9 12:44 p.m.
    2016 February 8 11:56 a.m.
    2017 February 7 12:06 p.m.
    2018 January 31 12:28 p.m.
    2019 January 29 8:38 a.m.
    2020 January 23 Between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 10 a.m
    2021 January 18 10:22 a.m.
    2022 February 8 3:11 p.m.
    2023 February 9 10:30 a.m.
    2024 January 30 10:10 a.m.



Search the Living Desert WebsiteMagnifying glass icon