The Importance of Mom!

by Dave Hanks

The legal courts have long recognized the importance of the mother to a child. Dad can be a big help, but in divorce proceedings – the mother has to be very incompetent to not be awarded the children. She will be the winner in almost all cases.

Mothers are vital in non-mammal species as well. Many birds have the father’s help in raising the chicks, but it’s the exception. The brightly colored male is a hindrance when close to the nest. His colors could even attract a predator to feast on the little ones. Some duck hens can be seen swimming with their chicks on their backs – safe from any danger below. Alligator young, at hatching, are carefully carried in mom’s mouth away from danger to the “gator hole” where she will aggressively protect them.

It seems strange that milk producing species almost exclusively depend on mom for security, as well as their food source. In fact, the male may be a very real danger. Lions are known to kill cubs, and boar bears welcome any available bear cub as a tasty meal. The cub may even be the boar’s offspring. Little does he care.

Moose research has shown that for every mother raised calf that dies, eight die that are orphaned. Orphans in their first winter are stressed twice as much by other adult moose than their compatriots. Why they are attacked more is not known. Hypotheses suggest that other mothers are trying to reduce the competition for food resources. It could also be a case of just plain “bullying” – much like the odd hen in the hen house that gets pecked to death. Nature seems to abhor misfits.

Many mammal mothers will put themselves at risk of death when protecting their offspring. One can not escape the tremendous importance of moms of every species.

(Picture: Young moose away from Mom and in trouble & Black Bear cubs ready to climb a tree at Mom’s warning)

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