Before we get to our TOP 5 MOMS… We want to do a special shout out to two native species whose maternal instincts would make any helicopter mom proud!
Great Horned Owl
These fierce moms incubate their eggs for more than a month. During this time they don’t leave the nest, relying on dad to bring in the “bacon.” When their eggs hatch the owlets are about the size of a newborn chicken so they are very vulnerable. Mother owls brood for weeks and then eventually will leave the nest to help hunt. She will also defend her owlets against all sorts of dangers… including humans. It’s not uncommon to see an owl swoop or even dive at people in a park when they approach a tree where her nest is. This is also the case when we renest baby Great Horned Owls.
If you’ve ever seen (or been) a mother at the grocery store with multiple children in tow then you can probably picture what it’s like to be a mother goose… It’s good that geese can’t count because we often foster out orphaned goslings to wild moms. As long as the babies are close to the same size as her own she will accept them without hesitation. Occasionally, we’ve seen a mother goose come up to us during a release and seemingly take the baby under her wing and lead it to the water. A mother goose has got to be on her game with a dozen or more babies. Goslings tend to follow anything that moves believing it to be it’s mother.
Top 5 MOMS OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM
The first mom on our list earns her spot for giving birth to the biggest babies on Earth — we’re talking an average of 200 pounds here! (Can you even imagine a diaper that large?) Female elephants also deserve a prize for enduring a 22-month pregnancy. The calves are initially born blind, forcing them to rely on their trunks for navigation and discovery, but fortunately, they live in a matriarchal society. Once the baby is born, the other “ladies” in the herd all lend a hand, including grandmothers, sisters, aunts and even cousins. These full-time baby-sitters are called “Allomothers,” and they help in every aspect of rearing the young calves — so in this case, it really does take a village to raise an elephant!
The highly intelligent orangutan is the ultimate do-it-yourself mom. She spends nearly all her life high up in the trees, where she builds a new nest every single night from branches and foliage, fashioning more than 30,000 homes in her lifetime! She also never puts her babies down, generally nursing offspring until they reach the age or 6 or 7 — that’s the longest dependence of any animal on Earth. For the most part, males come around only to mate, and even the baby boys break away more quickly from their mothers than their female counterparts, who often stay longer to learn child-rearing skills. Orangutan Home Ec, anyone? Arian Zwegers
Male polar bears are the kings of one-night stands. These Casanovas give females the cold shoulder after mating, leaving the moms-to-be to put on around 400 pounds during their pregnancy! That’s a lot of “baby weight,” but in this case, late-night cravings are encouraged — in fact, if the female doesn’t find enough food to double her weight, her body will actually reabsorb the fetus. Sound like something from a science fiction movie? It’s all too true. After she packs on the pounds, the polar bear has one of the easiest labors on record. She digs a maternity den (usually in a snowdrift), where she goes into a hibernation-like state, doesn’t eat for two months and also sleeps through the baby’s birth. Can you imagine? “Push!” “Zzzzzz.” “One more!” “Zzzzzz.” Newborns are blind and toothless, but super cute, and they generally stay by their mom’s side for just two years before being sent out on their own — sort of like condensing the toddler, tween and adolescence years. A todtweenscence, perhaps? Hmm.
Sure, she may be just a small aquatic crustacean, but the female sea louse is on our list and here’s why. First, she’s lured by the male into his bachelor burrow for mating where — surprise! — she discovers that she’s actually in a harem with 25 other pregnant females! If that wasn’t bad enough, once the babies are ready to be born, they make their way into the world by eating her from the inside out. Worst. Childbirth. Ever.
When it comes to having babies, the female octopus doesn’t mess around which is how she earned the top spot! She lays over 50,000 eggs, and that’s without any fertility drugs! It takes around 40 days for the eggs to develop before hatching, and the mom stays close to them the entire time, protecting them from predators while gently blowing currents of water over them to provide oxygen. But playing bodyguard to the eggs also prohibits her from hunting for herself, so what’s a mom to do? Well let’s see — with eight arms, surely that’s more than any octopus really needs, so what’s the harm in eating one? Some species die on the alter of motherhood!