Everyone loves an unlikely animal friendship, but what about an unlikely animal business partnership? That’s probably the best way of describing the unusual collaboration between coyotes and badgers, who have been spotted travelling and working together to hunt.
The two species tend to live in the same areas and hunt the same prey—a situation that might lead to competition, not cooperation, and yet coyotes and badgers have a collaborative hunting arrangement that stretches back for centuries. Since the two animals have different ways of hunting, by joining forces, they improve their chances of catching something. For example, badgers are slow runners but are able to dig prey like rodents out of burrows—while coyotes are able to catch them if they run away.
But this cooperative spirit doesn’t actually mean that they share the spoils of their hunt when they do catch something. Whoever catches the meal gets to eat it. So why cooperate at all? Because even if they don’t split the catch, the odds of either of them actually making a catch is higher when they work together. According to the Journal of Mammalogy, by working together, the animals catch prey at higher rates and use less energy and resources in hunting.
While this hunting strategy has been known to scientists for a long time, it’s rare for humans to actually see it in action. These photos were captured in Colorado last year, and show a single coyote roaming with a badger partner. However, it’s possible that similar collaborations are happening here in Canada, where—as most people know—coyotes are common and—as fewer people know—there are also badgers, which live in the prairies and southern Ontario.
So next time you run into a coyote, take a second look. He may just be travelling with a buddy.