Reflections in Nature: Good mothers outnumber bad

Today we celebrate a day set aside to honor our mothers. In the May 2013 issue of “Southern Living,” I read, “To be a mother is to be called to a higher purpose, whether you are equipped for that higher purpose or not.”

Through the years, I have come to realize the many sacrifices that my mother had made for us five kids. My mother always was the first one up in the morning and the last one to bed at night. At meal time, she was last to eat and often by the time the serving dishes reached her, they were almost empty.

I watched my wife, Mary Alice, raise our children. I helped, but not as much as I should have. She made sure they definitely knew right from wrong. I would hear her prayers for our children, praying that no harm would come to them and that they would do their best in life. Blessed are the children that have loving mothers, for we know that not all women make good mothers.

Motherhood in nature is the same. There are some good mothers and some bad mothers; however, the good mothers far outnumber the bad. I would venture a guess that this is the opposite in fathers.

Several years ago, I was walking on a path that went through a woods, when all of a sudden something came running out of the weeds and struck my leg. My first reactions were yelling and jumping, even though I hadn’t been injured. I then began to laugh when I realized that it was a mother grouse trying to lure me away from the area, by feigning injury.

After she was out of sight, I heard her calling, and 10 young chicks emerged from the weeds and began running toward her. The mother grouse was willing to take on a human for the protection of her young. Most likely a grouse attack would not hurt, but larger animals certainly could.

We all know better than getting between a mother bear and her cubs. Gary Alt and I were trying to introduce an orphaned cub to a mother that already had two cubs with her. The mother bear woofed at the cubs and they began climbing a tree. We then had to chase the mother away; however, she only went a short distance, just out of sight.

Before the cubs climbed too high in the tree, we were able to capture them. Of course, they were bawling, and several times mom threatened to charge us. We smeared each of her cubs with salve (can’t give you a name brand because of laws) and also the orphaned cub. We then coaxed the orphaned cub up the tree with the other cubs.

The female, who by then had come closer, could be heard clicking her teeth, woofing and breaking brush. She would come into view and then retreat, wanting us to follow her.

After making a hasty exit, we waited for about an hour and then returned to the tree where the cubs had been and found that they were gone, along with the adopted cub. Later, we received reports of the female being seen with all three cubs. We were quite happy that our plan was successful.

We have all seen a songbird, such as a robin, chasing a squirrel that has gotten too close to her nest and other birds chasing crows or even hawks that have gotten too close to their young.

Last summer, a robin raised two broods in our backyard, which is over-run with the neighbor’s cats. Every time a cat came near the nest, she would set up quite a racket and even bombarded the cats. Of course, every time I heard her distress call, I went to help.

I once watched a video of a doe deer attacking a turkey decoy, with the decoy being kicked and tossed in the air.

A spring turkey hunter, who had been calling turkey, had his video camera set upon a turkey decoy that he had placed in front of himself.

Most of the morning was spent trying to call in a turkey; however, after several hours of no response from a turkey, he got out a predator call and began calling.

Shortly after doing this, a doe appeared and, on seeing the turkey decoy, reacted by stomping on the decoy with its front feet and kicking it high in the air. As the doe turned to leave, the hunter gave another call on the predator call, and the doe returned to attack the turkey decoy again.

This happened a third time, but this time the deer came too close to where the camouflage hunter was hiding, and the man wisely decided not to call again.

Eventually, the deer left but within minutes appeared with a young fawn following. The hunter told me that he really believed that the deer would have attacked him if he had made another call.

Be sure to wish your mom a Happy Mother’s Day. Take a nature walk and hopefully you will see some young wildlife; however, just look – Don’t pick up! Mom will be close by.

Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.