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Mammal Mothers

May 03, 2020

Every year around Mother’s Day, nature’s moms are busy having and caring for newborns. Mammal mothers will feed, care, and shelter their young during their first months and beyond.

Mother raccoons havethree to fouryoung around this time. They are born with fur and weigh about as much as a chicken egg. They're either born with their bandit-like face masks or will have them within 10 days. They will stay in the den for about two months before going out with their mother to forage for food.

Young oppossums are leaving their mother about this time. Born in February and weighing less then a dime, the large litter of about nine could all fit in a tablespoon. When they have outgrown their mother’s kangaroo-like pouch, they'llhitch a ride on her backuntilready to move out on their own.

Mother does will have one to three young, usually twins, in May or June.White-tailed deer don’t have permanent homes so the female doe and her fawns will bed down on the ground. They are born scent-free to keep them safe from natural enemies like coyotes and bobcats. After a month or so, they will follow mom on feeding trips, spotting her by her flag-like white tail. They will lose their spots around September and stay with mom until the following spring.

Springtime is busy for nature moms. Mammal mothers build, borrow and remodel dens, have litters, provide food and teach their young to hunt and forage.

If you see nature’s young in the wild, remember to let them be so their mother, who is usually nearby,can return and care for them. Watch and enjoy nature families from a safe distanceto helpkeep Mother’s day wild!

Missouri's only Marsupial Mom!

Opossums carry their babes in a pouch andare an important part of nature’s cleanup crew.

  • Opossums feed on many insectsconsidered injurious by farmers and gardeners, and they also perform an important ecosystem function by feeding on carrion.
  • Opossums can consume over 4,000 ticks in a season.
  • Opossums eat a variety of foods but prefer animal matter, including many varieties of insects, and carrion of rabbits, cats, squirrels, mice, and other animals. Reptiles, amphibians, crayfish, birds and bird eggs, and earthworms are also eaten.
  • Fruits are eaten particularly in fall and early winter and include pokeberry, grapes, persimmons, papaws, and more.
  • Opossums fall prey to foxes, coyotes, bobcats, and owls.
  • They are abundant throughout the state; less abundant in the northwest and southeast regions.

Learn more about the opossum with the MDC’s Field Guide.

MO DOC-2020-DNN May Wk 2 Mammal Mothers-MDOC2005-LF02.mp3

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