PALM DESERT, Calif. -

Mojave Maxine is The Living Desert's version of Punxsutawney Phil, and zoo officials said she emerged from her burrow on Monday morning.

Maxine is a 35-year-old desert tortoise and she came out of brumation (reptilian hibernation) at 11:53 a.m. on February, 17. Zoo officials said it's a sign that spring is now upon us.

Zookeepers said Maxine retires to her burrow for several months while colder weather sticks around, and she resurfaces in early spring as the warm days begin to arrive. They said fresh flowers are a favorite food of the desert tortoise.

Each year, The Living Desert holds a contest for school children to predict when Mojave Maxine will emerge from her burrow. The Mojave Maxine Emergence Contest-winning students form nine Southern California counties will be notified in the coming weeks.

Officials said nearly 3,000 students entered the contest this year.

Winner students receive a $50 gift certificate, a Federal Land Pass, a visit from Mojave Maxine, t-shirts for their entire class and a $100 gift certificate for their teacher, according to the Living Desert's website.