Human moms aren’t the only ones who take extraordinary steps to protect and care for their young. Animal moms, too, will sacrifice and risk their lives for their young. Earlier this winter, while my husband and I pulled Christmas lights and decorations out of the storage area above our garage, we found something both disturbing and intensely moving.
A pregnant mouse, caught in one of the small box-like traps my husband keeps up there, had, before she died, pulled out her fur to make a nest. She hadn’t lived long enough to give birth, but she had used the last of her strength to prepare for her young.
I saw a similar situation in the basement of our cabin. A pregnant mouse had gotten in, found a washcloth and dragged it behind the refrigerator. She’d chewed through the thick fabric and added fiberglass insulation from the back of the refrigerator to build a soft, warm nest for her babies. The image stays with me.
A friend witnessed a mother mouse, who had nested under the cover of their outboard motor, carry each of her seven babies out of the boat, onto the dock, and to safe place on shore.
That same friend was sitting on her dock one night when a beaver grew agitated with her. She assumed it was a mother who had young in the nearby beaver lodge. The protective beaver repeatedly smacked her tail until my friend left.
Another remarkable mammal mom is the squirrel. I was on a country road when the car ahead of me hit a small squirrel. It was safe to pull over, so I did so. The squirrel, still in the road, was quivering and badly injured. From the wooded area to the right, a larger squirrel, which I assume was a mother darted out. She lifted the injured squirrel by the scruff of the neck and dragged it toward the shelter of the woods.
I imagine you’ve had mother birds swoop at you to protect their young. And maybe you’ve seen geese lower their necks and hiss if you get too close to their goslings. But have you ever seen a killdeer perform its broken wing trick? It tries to steer the invader away from its nest by pretending to have an injured wing so predators would go after it instead of the chicks. Have you seen how great blue herons try to ward off turkey vultures by making themselves look larger? They erect their head crests and the feathers on their necks and backs. Then they’ll lunge threateningly toward the predators.
While living in Arizona during an unusual cold snap, my mother discovered what a mother bird will do for its young. She found the frozen body of a hummingbird, its wings outstretched. Underneath her wings were two frozen chicks. The mother had never given up trying to protect her family.
I’d love to hear (and possibly share in a future column) the amazing acts of motherhood you’ve witnessed. I know there are many out there. Please send them to email@example.com.