Celebrating 7 of New Brunswick’s Wildlife Super-Moms
by Jess Baxter
Spring is in the air and the natural world is waking up, bringing cheery sounds, fresh smells, and new babies into our backyards. New Brunswick is home to all kinds of special animals, each with their own unique way of raising and protecting their young. Animals take on diverse strategies to ensure that their offspring survive: some species stay with their new babies for as little as a few weeks, while others stay together for a few years; some species stick close by their young to watch over them, and others leave them on their own to trick predators.
Mother Nature has produced lots of animal Super-Moms who keep our wildlife populations growing. In honour of Mother’s Day, let’s celebrate these 7 amazing mothers in New Brunswick’s animal kingdom!
1. White-tailed deer – White-tailed deer will typically give birth to one or two fawns, but can have up to three fawns if the conditions are right. Until a fawn is strong enough to keep up with its mother, the doe will hide it and leave it alone while searching for food. The doe cares for their young by drawing scent away from the new fawn so that predators will not be able to find it as easily.
2. Black bear – Like deer, a mother black bear will leave its cubs while hunting and collecting food. Whenever possible, Mother Black Bear will leave her cubs at ”daycare”, leaving them at the base of a white pine tree. This way, she can make a nest for her cubs at the base of the pine, and her cubs are able to climb the tree at the first sign of danger.
3. Brown-headed Cowbird – Brown-headed cowbirds are known as “nest parasites” because females don’t actually build a nest of their own. Instead, this bird lays its eggs in the nest of other species, often a species that produces smaller eggs than its own! Brown-headed cowbirds rely on the parenting skills of other bird moms for their offspring to survive, selecting the best adoptive mothers to feed and care for their fast-growing chicks.
4. Harbour Seal – Unlike many species of seal, the harbour seal does not forego eating while she is nursing her pup. Mother seals are very attentive during the nursing period, playing with pups and teaching them how to swim and fish; however, after 4-6 weeks when the pup is weaned, the mother pays it no mind and will seek a new mate.
5. North American porcupine – Porcupines are very independent animals, being solitary for most of the year. Young porcupettes can survive on their own just two weeks after being born and learn to climb trees shortly after! Our local North American porcupines will continue to nurse their young for 3-4 months, which is a long time for a member of the rodent family.
6. Atlantic Puffin – Atlantic Puffins build their nests in-land and must travel long distances to the coast to hunt for food. Though both the male and female puffins are involved in raising chicks, the female does most of the hunting while the male primarily guards the nest. Mama Puffin catches an average of 10 fish per trip, and has to make the trip several times a day to keep the growing chick fed! That’s a lot of trips to the grocery store!
7. Mallard Ducks – To keep their babies cozy and warm, the female mallard duck will pluck down feathers from her own breast to line the nest and cover the eggs. Once Mother Duck has laid her eggs, she rarely leaves the nest until her ducklings hatch, about 28 days later. At this point, the hard work is just beginning! The mother will lead her ducklings to water within the first 24 hours of being born, increasing their chance of survival. The nest can be located several kilometers away from the water, but this Super-Mom will guide her ducklings safely to the nearest water.
Moms of the natural world come in all shapes, sizes, and parenting styles, from helicopter moms to adoptive moms to fiercely protective moms. All of these mothers have one thing in common: they go to great lengths for their babies thrive! CPAWS-NB wishes a Happy Mother’s Day to all moms of the world, furry, winged, and otherwise!
Jess Baxter is the Program Support person at the Alzheimer Society of New Brunswick and a volunteer of CPAWS-NB. As an avid nature lover, Jess enjoys getting outdoors and spends her free time hiking, camping and exploring New Brunswick. Jess is passionate about environmental and animal welfare and is excited to be contributing to the CPAWS-NB blog!