While we’re appreciating the human mothers in our lives this Mother’s Day, let’s not forget our wild neighbors. Many Northwest native animals are dedicated moms who work tirelessly to raise the next generation, allowing their continued survival around Puget Sound. Share these fun facts and videos with your kids, and watch their appreciation of your maternal feats rise.
Giant Pacific octopus. Photo credit: Kelly Brenner
Giant Pacific octopus
The award for most dedicated and tragic mother goes to the octopus. She spends a month laying over 50,000 eggs before shutting herself away with them in a rocky cave. For six months she never leaves her eggs, constantly blowing water over them to keep them aerated and gently caressing them with her tentacles to fend off harmful objects and defending against intruders. The octopus mom doesn't even feed herself. Half a year later, as the eggs finally hatch and the tiny babies drift away, she dies.
What Northwest human moms can learn: Appreciate life after the kids have left the cave.
Where to see them: There are many beaches in the Puget Sound area where octopus may be seen, including Alki Beach, Richmond Beach and Seahurst Park. Seattle Aquarium’s beach naturalists are present on many area beaches during the lowest tides of the year. But for a guaranteed viewing, visit the Seattle Aquarium to get nose to tentacle. For the more ambitious, try your hand at diving.
Watch: This video has amazing footage of an octopus eggs hatching.
Orca whales. Photo credit: istockphoto
While most male orcas near the end of their life by the age of 50, females begin a new chapter. Like humans, orca females go through menopause at about this time, but are just over halfway through their life. These post-menopausal females then assume the role of pod leader, directing the younger orcas to food and aiding in their survival.
What Northwest human moms can learn: The matriarch carries the wisdom; and life just begins after menopause.
Where to see them: For the best chance of viewing Puget Sound's resident orca pods, head to the San Juan Islands from spring through fall and spend a weekend watching for orcas. While you’re there, visit The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor or the Langley Whale Center on Whidbey Island. Transient pods can be seen any time of the year, even from Seattle.
Watch: Show your kids this incredible video of kayakers paddling next to orcas.
Anna's hummingbird. Photo credit: Kelly Brenner
Through snow, sleet, wind or rain, these tiny, single mothers brave all kinds of weather to raise their young early in the spring. The mom builds a nest, the size of a golf ball, woven together with spider webs. She sits on her jelly-bean sized eggs to protect her eggs, and once they hatch she feeds her two chicks on her own. She will even defend her nest against predators many times larger than herself, such as hawks.
What Northwest human moms can learn: You don’t have to be a grizzly to defend your family.
Where to see them. The easiest way to see an Anna’s hummingbird is to put a feeder in your yard, or on a window. Also, consider adding hummingbird-friendly plants to your yard or balcony, such as red-flowering currant or honeysuckle. You can also see hummingbirds in many parks any time of the year around tubular-shaped flowers.
Watch: A hummingbird builds a tiny nest in this PBS documentary.
Mason bees. Photo credit: Kelly Brenner
In early spring tiny mason bees start to emerge from their nests where they spent the winter, and begin visiting flowers. The males emerge first, wait for females and once they mate, die. The females continue on pollinating and making their nests. The mother bee finds a tube, either human provided or in a plant stem, and lays an egg, leaving some pollen she has gathered with it. Then she builds a mud wall, lays another egg and continues until the tube is full. Once her task is complete she dies before summer arrives, leaving the next generation to continue the cycle.
What Northwest human moms can learn: Working hard doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the flowers.
Where to see them: Mason bees are very gentle and rarely sting. Check flowers in the early spring for mason bees visiting and add pollinator-friendly plants to your yard. For family fun, build a mason bee house to study and watch these interesting bees.
Watch: Show kids this fascinating micro-documentary on mason bees.
River otters. Photo credit: Kelly Brenner
Mother river otters raise their families alone, tending one or two blind and tiny pups for a month and a half in the den. The family then emerges into the wider world where the mom teaches the pups to swim by tempting them into the water with food. She may even drag the more reluctant offspring in the water. Her pups will stay with her for a year while she teaches them to fish and survive on their own.
What Northwest human moms can learn: Sometimes a good push is necessary.
Where to see them: Visiting parks along the water is your best chance at finding an otter. They can be seen anywhere in Lake Washington, along the Ship Canal and even in Puget Sound along our beaches. For an up-close experience, visit the river otters at Woodland Park Zoo. And if you do find otters in the wild, report your sighting to the Otter Spotter Community Science Initiative.
Watch: A mom feeds an otter pup in this cool video.