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Are You a Mama Bear?


Are you a mother? If so, when it comes to you and your children, would you describe yourself as a “mama bear?” Many women embrace that term since the mama bear is known for aggressively protecting her young — and herself. For that reason, you will often hear people say that you don’t want to mess with a mama bear. But — for the most part — do you want to mess with any mama?

While not every mother will stand up for her children, fight for them or save them from danger, most moms (and most dads, for that matter) will do what it takes to keep their kids safe. And there are a lot of mothers — human and animal — that naturally, instinctively and lovingly care for (and protect) their young.

So besides the well-recognized mama bear, what else is out there — perhaps to investigate or even emulate?

Cheetahs and gorillas have some of the strongest maternal instincts in the animal world, according to a National Zoo biologist, and they typically go above and beyond to nurture, feed and teach their offspring. Geese are notorious for being very protective of their young and will hurriedly place themselves in harm’s way to save their little ones. Whales of many species are known to ardently defend their calves, especially against other predatory whales. In fact, a news report shared that a gray whale in Monterey Bay put her calf on her back and defended herself with her tail when attacked by a pod of orcas. For clever “strength in numbers” defense, musk oxen, bison, elephants and dolphins are some of the creatures that will come together as a group to form protective circles around their babies to keep them safe and to fend off predators. And even crocodiles, whose jaws are specifically built to crush bone, will gently pick up their babies in their mouths to care for them and protect them from danger.

Diversion techniques in the animal world are also effective. In fact, if you’ve ever witnessed animals in danger, you may have seen the youngsters scatter. Or you may have watched them quickly move to find cover and hide. Meanwhile, the mom or dad leads the predator away and/or fights off the attacker. Those are some of the basic methods and instincts animals use that could also potentially work for human mamas! As George Harris, president and CEO of International Firearms Consultants, notes, you can also use one of nature’s best and most effective deceptions: feign compliance as a distraction. “Be like the mama grouse who flops about on the ground as if she has a broken wing and is pleading for her attacker not to hurt her,” Harris states. “Break the mindset of the attacker, if even briefly, in order to gain the advantage. Then get out of there or do what you must do.”

There are also some more unique methods that animals employ. For example, when threatened, the deep-sea squid breaks off the tip of its own twitching arm and leaves it behind as it makes its escape. (Maybe this could be like tossing a purse or a wallet aside and fleeing from a robber?) Or maybe you should think like a hippo. As reported on Thomson Safaris’ website, “Oftentimes, rather than engage a threat, hippos simply crack open their jaws — which can extend up to 150° — and flash their serious dental daggers. Unsurprisingly, that’s often enough to neutralize the situation.” (Perhaps this would be similar to having a knife, a Taser or even a firearm that you didn’t have to actually use on an assailant.)

Beyond considering these interesting tactics for escaping, defending against and neutralizing a dangerous threat, let’s not forget the importance of mamas training their kiddos. Children need to be able to fend for themselves too, especially when they are grown and are no longer in their parents’ care. So look to the cheetah mom for some inspiration. At any given time, she usually has four to six cubs to care for. But these little ones aren’t born with survival instincts. It’s up to mama to teach them how to hunt prey and how to avoid other predators, and this training can take years to sink in and stick.

Clearly, being safe and cautious and taking action against danger isn’t the same as tromping around and ravaging like a wild animal. But whether you identify with a mama bear — or even a mama grouse — it’s interesting to note what we might learn about defending ourselves and protecting our children just by observing the variety of creatures around us.

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