Today, I received word that Mojave Max, the desert spokestortoise for the Clark County Desert Conservation Plan died. I had the pleasure of feeding and taking care of this tortoise at the Desert Tortoise Conservation Center in the early 1990s. He was a very friendly tortoise with a great personality and he lived in the pen closest to the lab building. He was very curious and would always come out of his burrow for a treat when we stopped by his pen.

Since he was the “pet” of the Conservation Center, he had a name. I don’t know who named him but we called him “Lester the Molester.” He shared his pen with a huge female tortoise we called “Mrs. Lester.” Mr. and Mrs. Lester were constantly dancing the matrimonial polka, if you know what I mean. You could hear their incessant grunting several pens away.

One time, Rob and I were watching their antics and Mrs. Lester wasn’t in the mood. He was ramming her with his gular horn (the projection of the lower shell under the chin), bobbing his head madly, biting at her legs, and trying to get her to stand still so he could mount her. Male tortoise courtship uses similar techniques to that of Kobe Bryant. Anyway, she would have none of it. She kept moving, feeding on the grass, and he kept falling off of her. She was too big for him to subdue and when she finally had enough of Lester’s advances, she retreated into the safety of the burrow.

Now Lester, wasn’t about to let her get away. He moved to the top of the burrow entrance and waited. Mrs. Lester turned around in the burrow and cautiously looked out the entrance. She couldn’t see him. Finally, she began to walk out of the burrow. Wham! Lester leapt from the top of the burrow onto her shell. Another glorious victory for Lester!

When the County needed a charismatic tortoise for their public relations efforts to protect his wild kin and the desert, Lester was moved to the Red Rock Visitor Center in 1991 and renamed Mojave Max. Eventually, they had to keep him alone because he was scandalizing schoolchildren and producing too many hatchlings at the visitor center. Over the years, I would see him every once in the while up at Red Rock. He lived out his years in the media spotlight in a big, well planted pen. Every year, the school children would have a contest on when he would emerge from brumation in the spring.

The County plans on naming a new Mojave Max for the emergence contest and for their public education efforts. However, there will never be another Lester the Molester.

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