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Outdoors: Month of Maying

a pair of river otters
Otter couple | Peter Thiemann

Back in high school, I sang in a madrigal ensemble.

Somewhat naïvely (okay, really naïvely), I thought the song “Now is the month of Maying” was about merry lads and bonny lasses dancing and playing games on the village green.

Apparently, between the fa la las, the lyrics are a bit more bawdy than I realized.

Ah yes.

For the birds and the bees, or at least honeybees and some, but not all, native wild bees, spring is the breeding season, so most folks assume that mammals mate in May.

Some do.

Cottontails, for example, mate in May, but they multiply like rabbits because they mate repeatedly from early March till September.

Mice and vole breed spring, summer, fall, and sometimes, even during mild winters.

We all know that deer rut in late fall. So do porcupines. Male raccoons and skunks go on the prowl in late winter.

Squirrels and opossums mate in mid-winter and again in mid-summer.

And then, there is the odd situation called delayed fertilization.

For example, river otters mate in March or April, but the embryos do not implant for about ten month, so the young are born in the following spring.

Similarly, black bears mate in late June or early July, giving the females late summer and fall to build up their fat reserves.

The embryos do not implant until the mother bear goes into hibernation.

This is the “lusty month of May.”

For many creatures it is the time to be born or to emerge from dens. And, it may or may not be the mating season.

"Outdoors with Coggin Heeringa" can be heard every Wednesday on Classical IPR.