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Friday, May 7, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Wild Mommies!

Here’s a fun peek at wild animal mommies from sand to sea...

Desert Cottontail mommies bear young year round (in California) or up to eight months of the year. She may bear twenty to thirty young in four to five litters. A normal litter has two to six young, which are born blind, furless and unable to care for themselves. Not wanting to draw attention to the nest, mommy cottontails return to the den site only about 2 to 3 times a day to feed her young. The young are weaned at two weeks old, and they begin to leave the nest area three weeks after birth when they are ready to live on their own! Mom considers her job over at 4-5 weeks when she leaves, available to raise another litter.

Sea lion mommies give girth to one pup a year, usually on land and usually on the same beach she was born. From the very start, moms start barking right in their baby’s face until it replies. This is so they can learn to recognize and find each other if they ever get separated in the crowded rookery full of fellow pups and single moms! The sea lion mommy plays a kind of “marco/polo” with her pup until they’re reunited. Sea lions are attentive to their pups, fiercly protecting them and carefully teaching them how to swim for their survival. Pups may nurse for up to 6 months, but by 2 months, mommy sea lions have already taught their babies to swim and hunt with them.

Coyote mommies bear one litter of 3 to 9 puppies a year, usually in April or May when food is abundant. Her pups are born blind in a natal den, but their eyes open after about 14 days and they emerge from the den a few days later. She uses a vocalization called “huffing” to call for her pups without making a lot of noise that might attract predators. Pups suckle for 5 to 7 weeks, and start eating semi-solid food after 3 weeks. While the dad helps support the family with regurgitated food, the mother does not allow him to come all the way into the den. When the pups are about 8 to 10 weeks old, the mother starts taking them out hunting as a group. Within a year, they go their own way, staking out their own territory.

Orca mommies give birth to a baby orca (or calf) on average about once very ten years. Orca moms in labor are accompanied by another orca who is there to help. A baby orca is born tail first, and at ~8 feet long it already weighs around 400 lbs. A mommy orca will help her baby swim to the surface for its first breath. Soon after, the baby learns to swim on its own, just as it will need to learn everything else it needs to survive from its mom and other orcas, without instinct to guide it. Young orcas will stay with their moms their whole lives, living in an extended family pod of aunts, grandparents, brothers and sisters!

Bighorn mommies are protective of their young for many months. But within a few weeks of birth, lambs form bands of their own, seeking out their mothers only to suckle occasionally. Yearlings, often abandoned while the ewe is giving birth to her next lamb, may be seen again with the ewe and lamb late in the spring. Bighorn find safety in numbers and are ever watchful for predators such as Coyotes and Mountain Lions.

Sea Otter mommies have a strong and tender bond with their furry little pup. After four months of pregnancy, a single pup is born in the water. For the first few months of the pup’s life, it is completely dependent upon mom for survival. A sea otter pup rides on its mommy’s belly like a “little prince on a royal barge.” She gives her pup near constant attention, protecting it from the cold water, grooming the pup’s fur constantly, and nursing it. She’ll leave her pup floating for brief periods sometimes wrapped in kelp to keep it from floating away during which she forages to feed herself and replenish her milk supply. Young sea otters are usually independent by six or eight months.

Human mommies can give birth any time of year, usually to one or two young. Their babies can see at birth, and have some hair.Human mommies use several vocalizations to communicate with their babies.Their young may leave the nest after about 18 years, when they are on their own to stake out their own territory. Lucky for these youngsters, their mommies stay protective and are forever watchful for predators and other dangers throughout their offspring’s entire lives.

Celebrate your mom!

Sealion mommy and pup image: VerySherry_photos

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