May 12

Today is Mother’s Day in the US and is a chance to honor and give thanks to mothers, both human and those of the animal variety!

In nature, mothers come in all shapes and sizes and are equipped with a wide range of different parenting styles.  We’ve selected a handful of moms with unique and fascinating methods for raising their babies from keeping little ones close for years to kicking them right out of the nest before they can even fly!

How many aunts do you have?

Photo of American bison

Furry and ginormous, American bison mothers live with their young in hierarchical herds led by one dominant female. Within three hours of being born, the newborn calves are able to run about but are guarded closely by many of the herds’ mothers who will charge any intruders. Talk about safety in numbers!

Ever wish your mom would let you have your own place?

Photo of long-eared owl

Our fine, feather mom, the long-eared owl, takes on the more ‘distant’ parenting approach. In a behavior known as ‘branching’, chicks leave the nest before they are able to fly and reside in surrounding vegetation, roosting separately, and thereby potentially reducing predation. While the young are capable of flight at around 35 days, both parents continue to provide food for several weeks after fledging.

Did your mom ever carry you and eight of your brothers and sisters in her mouth?

Photo of American alligator

The scaly and not-so-cuddly American alligator mother is a more involved mom. From the time that she builds the nest for her 25 to 60 eggs to the moment they hatch, she remains quite close for the 65 day incubation period guarding against any potential predators. An efficient mom, she can carry eight to ten hatchlings at a time in her mouth!

Think you live in tight corners with your mother, brothers or sisters?

Photo of American black bear

The fuzzy but protective American black bear mom keeps her cubs close, real close. Mom and cubs snuggle up for months during winter hibernation and, since cubs aren’t weaned until they are six to eight months old, the family tends to spend a second winter hibernation in close quarters.

Could you imagine having your babies but then leaving them immediately?

Photo of Hawksbill turtle

The hawksbill turtle mother, after laying up to 140 eggs in a single nest, leaves her young behind to hatch and fend for themselves for the rest of their lives. If the hatchlings survive the mad dash to the sea just after hatching, they spend their first few years in the open ocean before returning to more sheltered coastal waters.

Haven’t gotten your fill of moms and babies on ARKive yet? Check out this search for ‘mothers’ to see animal moms from around the world on ARKive!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Ari Pineda, Program Assistant, Wildscreen USA