In celebration of Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday in the US, I’m delighted to have Katy Tanis, author and illustrator of board book Love in the Wild, on the site today to share a mini illustrated story about queer family in the wild!
First, a little more about Love in the Wild, which released on January 26, 2021:
The sweet rhyming text in Mudpuppy’s Love in the Wild Board Book highlights the many different types of love that can be found in the animal kingdom! This colorful celebration of love is based on scientists’ observations of same-sex couples, adoption, non-binary gender expression and more. Author-illustrator Katy Tanis is currently earning a MA in Biology from Miami University of Ohio. Her graduate work, partnering with the Wildlife Conservation Society, explores the promotion of conservation biology through art.
Children’s books often show animals living in nuclear family units of one male, one female and their offspring, even when it is not a reflection of that species’ actual behavior. While it’s possible that authors and illustrators try to draw parallels to a human child’s family, it’s not an accurate representation of modern human families, either.
Bear families are frequently featured in children’s books. However, a heterosexual bear pair raising young doesn’t happen in the wild. In fact, mother brown bears view male bears as such a threat, they will move closer to human territories to avoid them. (Both males and females view humans as a threat). Grizzly bear* female pairs, on the other hand, co-parent and raise their young together. About ⅕ of female grizzly bears are thought to participate in same-sex bonding or co-parenting at some point during their life. Cubs view both mothers as their parents. The non-biological mother sometimes nurses the young and may adopt the cubs if her partner dies. About 9% of grizzly bear cubs are raised by 2 or more mothers.
Adult bears do not share hibernating dens. But bonded females have delayed hibernation to spend more time with their partner (and her offspring if she has some), sleeping together outside their dens until hibernation can be delayed no longer. While most bears keep a significant distance between hibernation dens, bonded pairs have been known to move away from their preferred den sites to den closer to their partner.
When we write about animal families for kids, why not look at the actual animal’s behavior for inspiration? Sharing real stories about different species will better reflect the diversity of love, family, and parenting in the human species. For more stories about wild families check out my new book LOVE IN THE WILD published by MUDPUPPY.
*Grizzly bears are North American subspecies of the brown bear.
Bagemihl, Bruce. Biological Exuberance. (Stonewall Inn Editions) St. Martin’s Publishing Group, 2000.
Learn, Joshua R. (2016). Mama Bears Use Humans To Keep Their Cubs Safe. Retrieved 17 March 2021, from https://www.smithsonianmag.