Courtesy Clark County
Tuesday, July 1, 2008 | 6:09 p.m.
Mojave Max, the face of Southern Nevada's Mojave Desert tortoise population, has died of apparent natural causes on Monday, said Kirsten Cannon, spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management.
The 65-year-old male tortoise lived in a special habitat at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. That's within the normal life span of a desert tortoise, which ranges from 60 to 80 years. Cannon said a wildlife biologist examined Mojave Max before he was buried and found no signs of trauma.
For the past nine years Clark County school students were encouraged to estimate the time that he would first appear from his burrow after a winter's brumation, the reptillian form of hibernation, Cannon said.
Mojave Max became a cultural icon who predicted the coming of spring -- much like groundhog Punxsutawney Phil on the East Coast.
Max normally emerged from his burrow in mid-March but this year he appeared April 14 because of cooler weather.
The successful event drew thousands of students in the Las Vegas Valley to research species, temperatures and cycles of the Mojave Desert.
More than 100,000 school children were introduced to the Mojave Desert ecosystem through the Clark County Desert Conservation Program, which includes a cartoon version of Mojave Max.
A successor to Mojave Max will be announced at a later date, Cannon said.