With 70 degree mid-winter weather in Southern California, it does not 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 Mojave Desert.

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

The contest challenges students to guess the day and time that Maxine will emerge for the first time this 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 their entire class will get a visit from a desert tortoise, including Mojave Maxine T-shirts for everyone.

The contest will remain open until Maxine emerges from her burrow for students in K-12 grades, enrolled in public, private and registered home school in the following southern California counties: 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 US 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 on Nov. 26, waiting for the warm sun and the flowers to return.


I posted this story a couple of years ago, but there is a LOST TORTOISE sign on my block again today, so it bears revisiting. 


So here are some things that happened this afternoon that I am not lying about:

Ben came in from getting the mail and said, “There’s a giant tortoise loose outside.”

“Oh. Okay. What?”

“There’s a giant tortoise loose outside. Come look.”

I went and looked. There was a giant tortoise loose outside. He was walking through the yard across the street, and going pretty fast. There were four other neighbors standing around watching, two of whom had been following him since he walked through their their own yard three blocks away. Nobody knew what to do. So we all stood and watched for a while longer.

“Is he a pet?” “Do we call animal control?” “Can we pick him up, or will he bite?” There were a lot of questions, and nobody had answers.

People started to slow down as they drove past, and a few took pictures. We asked everyone, “Is this your giant tortoise?” After the third one, when they said no, I started adding, “Would you like a giant tortoise?” No takers.

A woman in a housecoat walked over. We asked: “Is this your tortoise?” She said: “No. Mine’s in the backyard. But it might be my son’s.” She walked over to him, checked his shell for markings, and said: “No. He don’t look like Torty.”


At around this time, the giant tortoise was starting to walk into the street, which we tried to discourage him from doing, because people drive fast on our street. Eric, who apparently is a personal trainer and my neighbor, picked him up and turned him back toward grass. He strained to do so, and estimated the giant tortoise’s weight at about 60 pounds.

Just then, another neighbor came from around the corner. He asked: “Is that Steve’s giant tortoise?” To which we responded: “Maybe?” He got a good look at the giant tortoise and said, “I’ll put him in my truck and bring him to Steve’s. If it’s not his, then at least he’ll be safe there. If you start seeing signs for a lost tortoise, call the number and tell them he’s at Steve’s.”

We agreed to do just that. As he drove off, our next-door neighbor leaned in to me and whispered: “Do you know who Steve is?”

“I do not,” I whispered. “But do you know that at least three of our neighbors own giant tortoises?”


We took Scooter the Eastern box turtle in looking all terrible and deformed after five years of poor care from someone that didn’t even know what kind of turtle they took from the wild. We gave her all the good food she required along with a proper habitat and as much outside sunshine as we could. She went from looking like an awful sickly deformed turtle to a healthy turtle despite her deformities and is still living well nearly ten years later.

Julie Maguire
Centereach, NY

The Turtle Rescue of Long Island is an INCREDIBLE rescue run by Julie Maguire in Long Island, NY. I have learned so much from her , her mailing list , and friends on the Russian Tortoise yahoo list. Every story I hear about the turtles and tortoises she cares for is inspirational. I’ll probably post more about TRLI but for now Here’s the story of Scooter, their biggest success story. 

PLEASE SUPPORT TRLI!!!! 3 steps, its no big deal, it can help so many turts and torts!  

1: click here


2:  type in Turtle Rescue of Long Island where it says “Shelter Name” , add NY under state and it’ll come up. 

3: click VOTE and you’re done!  you can vote EVERY DAY! DO IT!!!! 

The winner receives funding to help continue to support the animals they care for. Its rare a Turtle/Tortoise rescue gets a chance to win funding.  Every vote helps, Lets give the shelled ones a chance this time!! 


I don’t care what the reason is. Maybe, like me, you are just unlucky in love. Maybe you don’t have the time to date or you’re still hurting from a recent break up. If you cannot bear the constant reminders that you are single any longer, have no fear: this turtle will be your valentine.


(also is it weird that these pics made me a little teary eyed?)

Zoya gets mad…


if I hang out in the living room with the lighs on too long or if Im too loud. You think I’m kidding but she will go from being totally sleepy time at 6pm to showing herself and making a lot of noise until I shut off the lights or stop making noise.. then she’s completely silent. I’ve tested this by sitting in the room. She is not cool with mommy’s sleep schedule.