Animals offspring, Biology

Is the Momma Bear Really the Most Protective Animal Mother?

animal mother

As the author N.K. Jemisin has said,

“There is no greater warrior than a mother protecting her child.”

While there are many characteristics that make up a good mother, protecting their young is a common quality that both the human and animal mother share. The mother bear has always been the quintessential example of a mother’s love, and this is mainly because of their fierce, protective nature. It is a widely accepted belief that the most dangerous place to be is between a mother bear and her cub, but is this really a well-established fact or just an exaggerated myth? I’m not sure that I would want to be the one to test this theory.

Species of Bears and their Location

There are eight different species of bears; the two most common include the American black bear (Ursus americanus) and the brown bear or grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), according to BearSmart. Both of these species can be found in North America. The American black bear’s territory extends throughout the United States and Canada. The brown bear is located in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington and Canada. The more common of the two is the American black bear, with a population of approximately 900,000 in North America.

Black Bears and their Cubs

Black bears are solitary creatures that only come together during mating season. Mating season begins in June, but the actual implantation of the embryo is delayed until October. If the mother bear does not put on sufficient weight during this time, the embryo will not attach to the uterine wall. The typical gestational period is 220 days, and black bears usually have a litter of three or four cubs. The mother bear gives birth in the den during hibernation, and she tends to her young for a year and a half, until her next estrous cycle begins. According to, as soon as she is ready to mate, she will immediately start pushing the cubs off on their own, chasing away the startled cubs if they try to return. This seems cruel, but it may be a way to protect the cubs from being attacked by male bears that are interested in mating.

Are Black Bears the Most Protective Animal Mother?

Black bears may be the most common in North America, but do they provide the best example of a protective animal mother? Much research has been done on this topic over the years, and biologist Stephen Herrero summarized many of the results in his book, Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance. In his book, Herrero discusses Al Erickson’s pioneer research of black bear mothers and cubs, which was done in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Erickson captured 96 black bear cubs, and found that the mother bears did not exhibit the strong maternal instinct that one would expect from an animal mother. Instead, the mother bears would often abandon their cubs during an impending threat.

Additional research was conducted by Lynn Rogers, which served to further corroborate Erickson’s results. Rogers found that out of the eighteen bear cubs that were captured in the presence of their mothers, none of their mothers attacked. Most of the time, the animal mother took cover and hid under tree brush. To date, there is no evidence of a black bear ever defending their cubs by killing an aggressor. Instead, mother bears are much more likely to run away or hide when faced with a possible human attack.

Grizzly Bears and their Cubs

The mating and reproduction cycle of a grizzly bear is very similar to that of the black bear. However, grizzly bears have a slower reproductive rate, and they only have one or two cubs at a time. The cubs stay with their mother for at least two years, and they may stay up to three or four years if the mother does not get pregnant during her next estrous cycle. When grizzly bears get pregnant, it triggers them to push their cubs away, just like black bear mothers.

Are Grizzly Bears a Protective Animal Mother?

Grizzly bears symbolize everything that is treasured about the great outdoors and wilderness life. They are admired for their fierceness and brute strength. These same qualities are what make the grizzly bear an extremely protective animal mother. While black bear mothers tend to abandon their young if someone is bothering them, grizzly bears are much more aggressive and will attack. According to, seventy percent of human deaths caused by grizzly bears are related to a mother grizzly bear protecting her cubs. Whereas all bears may not be the perfect example of a protective animal mother, grizzly bears definitely exhibit this trait.

Grizzly bears also display other characteristics that can be attributed to good mothers. While the cubs are with their mother, they learn many important life lessons. The cubs will sit and watch their mom as she hunts for food and catches fish. By watching their mother, the cubs learn skills that will allow them to survive on their own.

Not all momma bears are not the picture-perfect example that we have grown to believe in. It looks like humans are closer to the grizzly bear. Mother’s love is for them really all about protecting from and preparing for a harsh world, and lead by example.

Here you you will find more about the Wolf mother and her excellent motherly behavior.

animal mother
Grizzly Bear Sow and cubs, by Denali National Park and Reserve CC BY 2.0


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