Nine Animal Mothers That Abandon Their Children

Sheena Joseph | Jul 09 2019
Image credits:Pinterest

Survival of all living beings is heavily depended on the process of natural selection. But did you know that evolution has trained many species to abandon their offspring? We are not talking about the stage when children are capable of self-care. Some animal mothers abandon their children when they are born or soon after birth. The children are left vulnerable to predators and harsh weather. Some perish in the course of this merciless process. But those who emerge out of it are ready to take on the world all by themselves. However, animal mothers have their own reasons for abandoning their children. Here are nine animal mothers that abandon their children. 

1. Harp Seals



Mama harp seals are glued to their pups for the first twelve days after giving birth. They take care of them by feeding them and protecting them from predators. In fact, the mothers do not eat at all during these twelve days. But after that the mother leaves the pup alone in the ice and disappear. While she is off to mate again, the pup is stranded on the ice for the next 45 days. They can't swim until they are eight weeks old. As the children have no means of getting food, they lose half of their body weight. Even though many pups survive this period and go on to hunt their own food, reports say that about 30% of pups die during the first year of their lives.

2. Pandas



Videos of pandas probably have the highest viewership on the internet. They are adorable looking cuties and doesn’t hold back on showing off their affection. But most people don't know that pandas can be incredibly ruthless. Pandas often give birth to twins. But panda mother doesn’t want twins. She will choose the strongest of her children and abandon the other. The reason behind this seemingly harsh move is quite simple. Pandas depend on bamboos for nutrition. Unfortunately, their choice of diet is very low on nutrients. Hence, the mother cannot produce enough milk to feed two babies. If she chooses to feed them both, neither of the children will receive sufficient milk and both of them are likely to die.

3. Black Bears

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Black bear mothers are very protective of their offspring. They safeguard and nurture them for about two years until the children are ready to hunt on their own. A typical litter consists of two or three bear cubs. They are born blind and helpless. The cubs need the assistance of mothers all the time. But if the mother ends up birthing only one cub, we have got a problem at hand. The mother will abandon the cub and move on because raising just one cub isn’t worth the effort. The abandoned cub will soon fall prey to predators like wolves, bobcats, eagles, mountain lions, and dog packs.

4. Snakes



Most of the snakes never see their offspring. They lay eggs and doesn’t stick around to see if they hatch or not. Snakes have zero maternal instincts. They never even return to check on what happened to their eggs. Sometimes mother snakes give birth to a live baby snake. Some snakes have the ability to incubate eggs inside their body. But they have no special maternal instincts. As soon as the baby is out of their body, mother snake leaves and never returns. However, baby snakes aren’t vulnerable. They are born with the ability to take care of themselves. King Cobras and Pythons stay with the eggs and keep them warm until they hatch.

Also Read: Why Praying Mantis Sacrifices Life During Sex?

5. Lizards



Lizards aren’t very confident about the chances of survival of their young. So they don’t stick around to see if the eggs make it to the end or not. They put the probability of survival of the species in numbers. Mother lizards lay as many eggs as possible. The number is remarkably high. However, most of these eggs are sniffed out by predators. Even if the baby hatches, they could easily be attacked by a predator. But if not, they may even die of starvation. The very few that survives never see their parents.

6. Merino Sheep



Merino sheep are commonly found in Spain and North America. Their wool is highly valued. These widely valued animals are also partial when it comes to children. Merino mothers often give birth to twins, and they choose to nurture only one. They will abandon the second one to die and move on. The practice could be an evolutionary response to the low protein value in the region. 

7. Rabbits



Baby rabbits get to enjoy the presence of their mother for only a few minutes a day. But the mother has a logical reason for abandoning her litter. Adult rabbits carry a strong scent that makes easy for predators to find them. Mother rabbit doesn’t spend enough time with her babies so that her scent doesn’t lead the predators to the nest. Since the babies do not have a strong scent, predators are not likely to find them. Hence, the mother rabbit is protecting her young by abandoning them. The mother rabbit feeds the babies for a period of 25 days. After that, young rabbits can fend for themselves. 

8. Cats



Most cats are maternal and take care of the young until they are able to survive on their own. But the kittens have a weak immune system. Hence the chances of infection are high. Once the mother realises that one of her kittens are infected, she knows that the chances of it surviving are less and the chances of other kittens getting sick are high. The mother cat will soon abandon the sick kitten and takes the siblings away. This move seems logical and reasonable because even veterinarians are not keen on treating a kitten with bacterial or viral illness because it will not survive even with proper care and medicine.

Also Read: Have You Heard About The Primitive Lungfish?

9. Hooded Grebes



These birds are known for having strong family values. The father and mother grebes raise their offspring with protection and affection. The mother even carries the young on her back for a long time. But all these privileges are reserved for the chick that hatches first. Hooded grebes always lay two eggs. They incubate the egg in a floating nest and protects it throughout this period. But as soon as the first egg is hatched, the family will be on their way leaving behind the second chick to die or survive on its own. In the mother’s defence, she never intended to have two babies. The second egg was only a spare in case the first one doesn’t survive. In rare cases, if both eggs hatch together, the parents will take care of both with equal attention and affection.