By Barbara Walvoord
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post Jan. 27 – Feb. 2, 2018
For our Lathrop creatures, it’s good to have babies as soon in the new year as possible, so the babies can grow big and strong during the summer. But problem: if a baby is born now, how do you keep it warm and fed in a Massachusetts winter? Some of our Lathrop creatures have to wait for warmer weather, but some have solved the problem and are having their babies right now.
Our birds have to wait for warmer weather so they can keep the eggs and chicks warm in a mud-and-grass nest. Frogs don’t have to care for their young, but they can’t hop to a pond, mate, and lay eggs until the water, and their own bodies, warm up in spring.
Foxes and coyotes have to wait awhile yet, but since foxes mate for life, and fox dads stick around, mom can give birth in early spring, staying with the blind, helpless babies, keeping them warm, while dad brings home the food. Coyotes follow the “it takes a village” strategy. Coyotes are mating about now, and in early spring, the whole pack will help to bring food to the pups.
It’s hard for a dad or a pack to bring back grass to mom and the kids, so deer moms have to wait with having babies until the fawns can be left alone in the grass while mom goes out to eat.
But bear babies are being born right now. Bears have solved the problem: Mom just doesn’t eat at all. She hibernates in a warm den, makes babies from last spring’s mating, makes milk from the fat she stored last summer, and cuddles her babies in her warm fur.
Our opossums don’t hibernate, and they have to move about to find the insects, rodents, garbage, and other stuff they eat, but these moms give birth now and just take the babies with them in a warm internal pouch, where the babies, born the size of honeybees, stay for about 50 days, each one latched on to a nipple, while mom goes wherever she pleases.