Wildlife’s good mothers

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Human mothers don’t hold the patent on good parenting — here are some of wildlife’s good mothers

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Red Fox mother and pups. (Phil Johnson / Flickr; CC)

 A RED FOX (Vulpes vulpes) mother dotes on her kits. She cares for them constantly for the first two weeks, while their father hunts for food and caters it to her. Both parents raise their young (usually five, but up to 12 have been reported). The mother will also take on the chore of building one or more dens for her family after mating. In the fall, the father leaves until the next mating season. Females sometimes remain with their mother for a year.   All about the Red Fox  Foxes: frequent questions
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Brazilian Free-tailed bat mothers and their pups. (© Amanda Loller, BatWorld.org)

These BRAZILIAN FREE-TAILED BATS (Tadarida brasiliensis) are in a “nursery” colony — only moms and their pups, no adult males allowed. Along with most other bat species, they have just one pup at a time. The pups, born hairless, snuggle together for warmth. Their moms are nearby and move into the huddle to feed them, sometimes sleeping there for a while. Mothers can locate their pups among 100s, even 1000s, of others — all calling for their mother — by their baby’s odor and voice.
All about bats  Bats: frequent questions

Cottontail Mother feeding her kits. (Geoff Chandler / DCResource; cc by 2.0)

Cottontail Mother feeding her kits. (Geoff Chandler / DCResource; cc by 2.0)

This is a rare photo — a COTTONTAIL nursing her kits. Rare because they visit their kits only twice a day, and usually unseen, and only to feed and clean them. After nursing, the mother covers them in their nest with grasses or leaf debris to hide them and keep them safe. The kits lay quietly side-by-side until next feeding time. If you have a nest in your yard, protect it from lawnmowers by driving a wide circle of 3-foot-tall stakes around it. This is better than fencing, which may restrict the movement of mother and kits. It won’t be for long — they’ll leave in about two weeks. All about the Eastern Cottontail Rabbit   Cottontail rabbits: frequent questions

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Dolphin and calf. (© Michael Daniel Ho)

As soon as a DOLPHIN calf is born, its mother leads it to the surface for its first breath. Such a good mom, she gets almost no sleep for the first two months, in order to stay vigilant. Baby, on the other hand, sleeps a lot — half a brain at a time. That’s because dolphins keep one hemisphere of their brain alert, while the other hemisphere sleeps. Calves keep mom in sight by keeping their awake side next to her.

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Earwig (Forficula auricularia) mother with eggs and hatchlings. (Tom Oates, 2010 / Wiki; cc by-sa 3.0)

Insects don’t come to mind when we think of good mothers. Most lay eggs and move on. An EARWIG mother, however, guards and defends her eggs, and even keeps them clean. If eggs get dispersed, she puts them back in her burrow. After hatching, she delivers food to her young until they can care for themselves. Earwigs are very common in our yards and, except for a bad odor and a mild pinch with their long pincers if we handle them, are harmless to humans.  All about earwigs

Mallard mother and her ducklings. (WW)

Mallard mother and her ducklings. (WW)

This MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) is relaxing with her ducklings, only a day or two old. She needs the rest! Mallards lay eight to 13 eggs — more than half their body weight! The mother is very protective of her young, even pretending to be hurt by squawking and flapping on the ground to draw away a predator’s attention. If ducklings scatter, she collects them back together. Some ducklings stay with her until the next breeding season.  All about birds  Birds: frequent questions

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Raccoon mother and her kits. (Ingrid Taylar / Flickr; cc by 2.0)

NORTHERN RACCOON (Procyon lotor) females are normally mild-mannered, but when they’re mothers they’ll fight ferociously to protect their babies. Kits (usually three to four) are born between March and August. They stay with their mother for about four months, or sometimes longer, until she moves them out to make way for her next litter.  All about the Northern Raccoon   Northern Raccoons: frequent questions

Striped Skunk mother and her kits. (© Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic, High Ridge, Mo.)



SKUNK
mothers raise their babies on their own. After mating, males go their own way. The mother starts teaching her young (usually five to seven of them) how to hunt at about six weeks old. She’s very protective. If her young are threatened, she may spray predators without the usual warning skunks give. Kits often stay with their mother until the next mating season. Observers report that skunks from the same litter who happen to meet up later act overjoyed to see each other again.  All about the Striped Skunk   Skunks: frequent questions

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