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In Appreciation of Animal Moms in the Wilderness

Updated: Dec 21, 2023



Affectionate lioness with her cub
Affectionate lioness with her cub. Photo Credit: unsplash.com/Catherine Merlin

We have heard the famous saying “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!”. We can also probably say this about moms: “ Hell hath no fury like a woman defending her offspring!”


Yes indeed, moms, perhaps being more emotional than dads, will do anything to protect their children. So, it may not be surprising that in the wilderness, moms also try to protect their offspring from any danger. Let’s explore this a bit further with a few examples.


Moms in the Land Wilderness

Lions

In Africa, in a pride of lions, young males around 2-3 years leave the pride or are driven out. They then wander about and find food by themselves. Driven by instinct, they seek out a pride and try to eliminate the leading male of that pride. The younger, healthier lions often are able to kill or drive out the older foe. Once they take command of this pride, oftentimes, they embark upon a scary act. They will systematically capture and kill all the smaller cubs. To us, this act may sound extremely brutal. But we should not judge the happenings in the wild per our own rules. The lions kill the cubs because they then produce cubs through the pride females, which will be healthier. This is an act of Nature and has worked in the wilderness for millions of years. In the wild, it is the fittest who survive. But the story does not end there.


Once the stranger males start a battle with their leader, the lionesses of the tribe instinctively know what will happen next. If the young intruders are able to subdue their own leader, then their own offspring lives will be in danger. So, many moms take their little cubs and try to hide them in bushes. Unfortunately, the new conquerors are also extremely determined to propagate their own genes, by instinct. They somehow find the cubs and kill them- mostly, all of them. This is one situation where the moms are defenseless. Otherwise, if for instance, hyenas or leopards try to steal their cubs, the lionesses will defend them with their lives.

Lions and lionesses always try to steal and kill leopard cubs, African wild dog pups, and hyena pups when they get an opportunity. Vice versa is also true. However, in this case, the primary reason is that finding prey is a very tough job for these carnivores. Stealing cubs and pups of other species is relatively simple. They are also trying to eliminate competition for food. But luckily, not everybody succeeds all the time.


Lion with cub
This picture was taken by the eminent American mammologist, biologist, conservationist, and author, George B Schaller.

Bears

Mother bears become ferocious while defending their cubs. Bears are solitary creatures. Female and the male come together only to mate. Then they go their separate ways. The female bear then rears her cubs, usually two, all by herself. She protects them with her life. Many times, the solitary males may wander close to a mom bear and her cubs. The mom instantly knows that the male will kill her cubs. Even if the male maybe many times her size, she will still fight with him fiercely. Thankfully, in the majority of cases, the male slinks away after showing off aggression initially.


Mother bear fighting with a huge male to protect her two cubs
Mother bear fighting with a huge male to protect her two cubs. Photo Credit: thesun.co.uk/Denis Budkov

Moms in the Sky Wilderness

African jacanas are ground based birds and are found near lakes and ponds. The males take care of their young while the moms defend their territory! This is due to sexual dimorphism - female jacanas are larger than males. To protect the chicks from the sun or danger, the male hides them under his body feathers. There are instances in the wild where males take over a female’s duty. But generally, it is the avian mom who takes care of and protects her brood while the male defends their territory and also brings food.

Male jacana hiding its chicks
Male jacana hiding its chicks. Photo Credit: boredpanda.com/Willem Kruger

Many birds nest high above ground such as cranes and storks. In such cases, when the sunlight is fierce, the mom also spreads her wings over her eggs or chicks to protect them. She will also protect them against any intruders such as raptors. Naturally, when the male is around, he also joins her in defending his family.


Eagle mom protecting her chick from harsh sun
Eagle mom protecting her chick from harsh sun. Photo Credit: short-toed-eagle-net/Joubert B

Moms in the Water Wilderness

On land, large mammals like elephants, deer, or wildebeest live in herds. Here, the young fawns travel in the middle of the group with adults shielding them from danger. In the sea, for example, dolphins also travel in pods and the young travel in the midst for protection against predators such as killer whales and sharks. Adult dolphins swim above and to the side to protect their baby dolphins. Dolphin calves are safe under their mom’s watchful eyes from about 3 to 6 years. She teaches them how to hunt, avoid danger and navigate their territory. She will defend her offspring against any type of danger at all times.


Mother dolphin with offspring
I feel safer when mom is around! Photo Credit: seaworld.com

We have looked at just a few examples of how moms protect their young against all odds in the wilderness. There are, of course, many more examples in every realm of our planet.


Wherever they are in the wild - on land, in water or in the air, moms are always protective of their offspring. They will give their live for them if need be. Let us bow down to ALL the moms of the world!


Did You Know?

  • Sexual dimorphism is the systematic difference in form between individuals of different sex in same species. For instance, in many species, including mammals, males are often larger than the female. However, in other species, like spiders, the female is larger than the male.

  • A group of dolphins is called a “pod”. Male dolphins are termed “bulls”, females are “cows”, and baby dolphins are “calves”. Calves are also called “cuties” for affection.

 

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