Springtime brings new wildlife to our forests, oceans, plains and more.
Ah, spring! There’s lots to love about the season, from longer days and warm rains to fragrant flowers. But if you’re a wildlife lover—and we know you are—one of the best things about spring is that newly born wild animals have begun making their first forays into the world.
Some of us may venture out in the hope of seeing adults and their offspring in our national parks, national wildlife refuges and other wild places. But for most of us, just knowing that the cycle of life renews itself on the landscape every spring is reason for delight.
Here’s how some of our favorite wildlife spring into life every year.
Bison: These hooves are made for walking
For baby bison, first steps matter. Within three hours of birth, calves are up and moving. Instinctively, they stick close to mom who, along with the rest of the herd, protects them from predators and prods them on to summer pastures. With only a single calf born at a time, mom is fiercely protective. In fact, a female with a calf can be even more dangerous than a bull—one of the most ferocious animals in North America and definitely nothing to snort at.
Sea Otter: Free glide
Not much could be cuter than a sea otter floating around with a furry, content newborn on her chest. Mom will give her new pup—usually there is just one—a free ride for the first couple of months. Pups start figuring out how to swim at around a month old, but they can’t dive until they shed their baby fur. Instead of blubber, adult sea otters have thick fur that traps air against their skin to keep them warm. Baby sea otters have extra-fluffy fur that traps so much air it forces them to stay afloat – they couldn’t dive if they tried. When mom needs to hunt and leave her pup alone, nature has a solution for that, too. Sea otters wrap their pups in kelp to keep them tethered in place—like a makeshift playpen—so mom can get her “errands” done.
Piping Plover: Masters of disguise
Before and after they are born, piping plovers rely on nature’s camouflage to survive. First their shells, and then the chicks themselves, are speckled like the sand to blend into the shoreline where the female lays her clutch. Nestled in the sand, you can barely see the little chicks – though once they stand you can get a glimpse. They look a bit like a speckled cottonball with two toothpicks sticking out. Chicks must triple their weight in just two weeks, so they have their work cut out for them. Within hours of hatching, they can scurry around to pluck marine worms, insects and larvae off the beach. By 30 days after hatching, these chicks will fly the coop.
North Atlantic Right Whale: Big babies
Hard to believe any newborn can weigh 2,000 pounds and stretch up to 15 feet! Right whale calves grow more than half an inch every day for the first 10 months, reaching a length of 28 feet after a year. During the first year, mom and calf are inseparable. The calf may playfully swim up on her mother’s back to butt heads, while mom will roll over on her back and hold on to her calf with her flippers to show their bond is strong.
Florida Panther: All in the family
While mom’s away, the kittens will play. But first they have to open their striking, baby blues. It takes two to three weeks for newborns to open their eyes. These kittens will keep their bright blue eyes, spotted coats and banded tails until about they are about six months old, and they begin to look more like the sleek, tawny adults they will become. Florida panthers can have up to four kittens in a litter, and when mother is out hunting, the siblings use the time to play and hone their own hunting skills. Official hunting lessons start at around two months old, and before the year is out, offspring start catching their own small prey. Within another year they will all have parted ways, in search of territory and mates to have spring babies of their own.