Partners for life

Published 5:29 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Do you know what wolves, bald eagles, swans, gibbons, barn owls, black vultures, beavers, shingleback skinks, penguins and coyotes, all have in common? They mate for life.

An alpha male and female create the structure for a gray wolf pack and they breed once a year between January and April. Sometimes they’ll move out of the pack to be alone together. Bald eagles mate for life and have a very strong attachment to their nest. If a mate dies, they’ll quickly find a new mate but bring the new mate into their old nest! Swans are famous as faithful partners and will, during the breeding season, use their wings to beat off any other suitors. 

Gibbons mate for life and spend lots of time grooming each other, but some have been known, like humans, to stray for a short time. Barn owls go out of their way to attract a mate, even bringing her extra food during the courtship. But once he wins her, they mate for life. And although you might not expect it, black vultures are monogamous for life and never separate for any reason during the year. 

Beavers live in colonies created by a pair of beavers and together raise their “children” for about two years until they move out and find their own “true loves.” Shingleback skinks have been found living together for more than 20 years. The male falls in love at first sight and follows her for months as she plays “hard to get.” Even after one of them dies, the other one will spend days keeping watch over the body. Penguins get excited when they see their partner and they “cackle” and swing their heads in a sort of dance for life.

And of all the animals who mate for life, coyotes, according to National Geographic, are among the most loyal and never stray. If only we humans were as faithful and loyal? 

“Stay on good terms with each other, held together by love. Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it. Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you. Honor marriage, and guard the sacredness of sexual intimacy between wife and husband. God draws a firm line against casual and illicit sex.” (Hebrews 13)

One of the biologists who described some of the “mating for life” behavior in animals wished humans could “mate for life.” But he regretted that it had been tried and simply did not work. My experience is that it’s not easy, but it does work if you work at it.

I remember making a promise, “as long as you both shall live,” and with God’s help, I intend to keep my promise.