How Different Animals “MOM”
Being a mom is definitely a verb! It takes all kinds of effort to keep young ones safe, healthy, and thriving. Being a mother is joyful, but it is most definitely an active endeavor for moms throughout the animal kingdom! We will explore the extraordinary variety of measures that moms in the wild go through to successfully raise their young.
It Takes a Village
Some moms go it alone, but for many in the animal kingdom, “momming” is a group effort. Working together to feed, nurture, teach, and protect the young in a group has very positive survival benefits.
Meerkats leave their offspring with other members of the colony while going off to forage and bring back food.
Elephants live in a herd that is primarily made up of related females. While the mother is the primary caregiver, the other females assist in the care of all young in a herd.
Lionesses in a pride help take care of and feed all pride offspring. They often synchronize their pregnancies, which is helpful in decreasing the competition between older cubs and younger ones and also allows cubs to be able to suckle from a variety of moms in the pride.
Orcas live in pods with female members that help raise and protect the young. Orcas are matriarchal and matrilineal - the females stay with their mothers and grandmothers for their whole lives to help care for their pod. Older Orcas pass down their pod's culture (which involves general survival as well as specific hunting techniques).
Hide to Survive
Don’t make a peep! A prime method of protection for animals is remaining invisible. Many animal mothers use various methods of hiding their babies to keep them safe.
Green Iguanas dig deep nest to lay their eggs. They then loosely cover the nest to conceal the eggs from view.
Cheetahs move their litters every few days to isolate them and prevent a buildup of scents that would attract predators.
Lionesses give birth in seclusion and keep their cubs isolated until they are stronger and able to walk well.
A Whitetail Doe will often hide its babies in brush, tall grass, or near human dwellings while they forage for food. In addition to their speckled camouflaging coloring, fawns will stay very still while hidden and waiting for their mothers to return.
Black bears will often leave cubs in the safety of white pines while they leave to forage for food. The cubs will sleep and play around the pines so that they are able to climb up into the branches for safety.
Deflect to Protect
“Hey, hey…over here!” While some moms will fight to protect their babies, other more vulnerable animals seek to distract a predator away from their littles.
Killdeer, a type of plover, will make alarm calls and then feign an injury to distract predators away from their nest. They often droop their tails and wings to appear as though they are hurt, and thus an easy prey to lure the predator away from the babies.
Fight, Fight, Fight
Most mothers will fight for their young, but there are few animals that will ferociously attack to protect their offspring.
Geese will aggressively charge and attack anything that dares to approach its nest or babies. Please abandon any thoughts of trying to get close to those cute fluffy chicks!
Baby alligators will vocalize for their moms when they are in trouble. A mom alligator will come and battle on behalf of their babies.
“Momma Bear” is a term that means fiercely fighting for your child. Grizzly bear mothers are ferocious protectors of their cubs. Never get between an mother bear and her cub unless you want to get mauled (70% of human deaths cause by Grizzlies are related to interference with cubs).
Elephant mothers and their female relatives will fight anything that tries to mess with a calf in their herds. They will stomp and use their tusks or trunk to attack.
Zebras are fierce defenders of their foals. They will kick hard enough to break a lion’s jaw to protect their young.
Wearing is Caring
Many NICUs encourage “Kangaroo Care”, a method of providing skin to skin contact with a newborn. This method is often used with prematurely born human babies to help them thrive. This beautiful method is of course based on how Kangaroos take care of joeys. Marsupials are animals that carry their babies in a pouch after birth. In addition to marsupials, there are other animals that carry young around for safety.
Marsupials have shorter gestation periods than other mammals, and they carry their babies in a special pouch to allow further development and maturity. The pouch of a marsupial mother keeps babies safe and warm. Baby marsupials are also able to suckle inside of the pouch. Some marsupials include: Opossums, Kangaroos, Sugar Gliders, Numbats, Koalas, Quoll, Wallabies, Wombats, Bandicoots, and Tasmanian Devils.
Wolf Spiders are unlike other arachnids. They carry their egg sacs on their backs instead of attaching it to a web. The baby spiders even continue to ride around on the mother’s back after they hatch!
An Alligator mother will carry newly hatched offspring in her mouth from the nest to the water. Baby alligators will also sometimes hitch a ride on their mother’s back.
Orangutans keep constant contact with their babies until they are around four months old. Young orangutans continue to remain close to their mothers until around eight years of age.
Having only one baby a year, Giant Anteaters carry young around on their backs to keep them safe from harm.
Strawberry Poison Arrow Frog carries her tadpoles up to a hundred feet into the tree canopy for safety. She will then set up individual “nurseries” for them in puddles found in leaves.
Fasting for the Future
While many busy moms joke about only having time to subsist on the scraps and leftover snacks from their kid's lunches, some animal mothers truly do skip meals as part of their mom duties. Here are a few examples of animal moms that make extreme sacrifices for their offspring. Some animals skip meals for months to keep their babies safe. I don’t know about you, but learning this makes those leftover chicken nuggets seem pretty appetizing.
Octopus moms commit the ultimate sacrifice to ensure the safety of their babies. They fast, often until death, to stay with their eggs. While protecting their brood, the health of a mother octopus rapidly declines until they eventually cannibalize a limb, succumb to a predator, or die.
Polar bears will go up to eight months without eating! They remain in dens with their cubs for months on end while the cubs mature and grow strong enough to venture outside.
Red-Knobbed Hornbills go two months without eating. They seal themselves inside the nest, with their own feces, for the duration of incubation to keep their offspring safe.
Nature is filled with awe-inspiring efforts of survival, but the ultimate flex is the willingness to put one’s own comfort and survival on the line for the sake of the future. Moms are truly amazing!
Moms, we see your sacrifices, sleepless nights, emotional loads, endless cleaning, extraordinary love for your children…WE SEE YOU! The Safari Ltd. family applauds all of moms! We send out our praise, respect, and appreciation for all that you do for your kids. Just remember, that even on your hardest days, you are doing an amazing job!