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Move Over Punxsutawney Phil

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(photo: clarkcountynv.org)

(photo: clarkcountynv.org)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — With the rest of the nation focused on whether a Pennsylvania groundhog sees his shadow, Las Vegas-area schoolchildren are beginning an annual watch for a desert tortoise named Mojave Max.

Officials say Max was still asleep for the winter Thursday in an underground burrow near the visitor center at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

Clark County and local school officials host an annual contest for Las Vegas-area students to guess when Max will end his reptilian hibernation — called brumation — and venture out to greet spring.

Mojave Max usually emerges in March. But since 2000 he has come out as early as February 14 and as late as April 14.

About 6,300 students took part last year, when Max came out on March 29.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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