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Coyote-Badger Footage Brings Context to Decades-old Observations

Recently, the video recorded in California about the “friendly” relationship between a coyote and a badger has been given great attention. People living in the countryside and some wildlife researchers know that these animals can travel and hunt together, but there are not many visual records of this behavior.

I was lucky enough to observe this behavior twice almost 30 years ago. From the late 1980s to the mid-90s I was responsible for the Sonoran Pronghorn Recovery Program at Centro Ecológico de Sonora (Sonora Ecological Center). I spent many hours of observation in the Grand Desierto Region (Northwest Sonora) to locate herds or individuals of Sonoran pronghorn and learn about the behavioral ecology of this endangered subspecies.

I would spend endless hours of observation, sitting on top of some hill with my binoculars. On two different occasions, I witnessed a scene that left me perplexed: watching in the distance, I saw a lonely coyote walking, and a few yards behind him a badger followed. The coyote stopped and the badger did the same. They both sniffed something in the surrounding air and soil and then a few seconds later they set back on track. I followed them until I lost sight of them in the sandy plains.

At that time I didn’t pay much attention to what I’d seen. I thought the badger was bothering the coyote, trying to get him away from him and the coyote just ignored it. Today, as a result of the attention the footage has garnered on social media, I’ve read more information on this topic. Now I understand that what I saw was a little-known event where two different species lurk and hunt together to benefit from the each other’s skills.

Both coyotes and badgers are opportunist carnivores and efficient hunters who feed on a wide menu including insects, amphibians, reptiles and a variety of small and medium-sized mammals. Coyotes have an excellent sense of smell and vision whereas badgers are very well adapted to locate prey underground using their large claws.

In this way the hunting skills of each animal complement each other, resulting in a “friendly” relationship.

Carlos Castillo is Senior Conservation Specialist for Wildlands Network’s Mexico Program, based in Hermosillo, Mexico.

The footage captured by Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) and partners depicts wildlife using a human-made culvert to cross under a road. Wild animals, and even plants, need to move across landscapes to survive —just like humans. Roads serve as a direct barrier to movement, impeding the ability of wildlife to move safely to find food, water and mates. Wildlands Network is involved in science and policy efforts in both the United States and Mexico to ensure native species can safely move across roads in order to migrate and adapt to rapidly-changing landscapes and climate.  

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