My dog loves chasing squirrels. The hills behind our house are poked full of so many ground squirrel holes that they look like Swiss cheese. During the spring and summer, there must be hundreds of them on each hill, which is a big reason why we also see coyotes, hawks, bobcats, and other appropriately-sized predators in this area.
Ground Squirrel. Photo credit: Creative Commons via Flickr by Howard Cheng.
Alas, my dog’s ambitions are greater than his squirreling skills. He caught a vole once, but has no luck with the squirrels. I need to get him his own badger.
Recently, I wrote a post about coyotes’ adaptability and how they are expanding their geographic range. Their adaptability extends to their hunting strategies also. A few years ago, when someone told me that badgers and coyotes hunt together, I laughed. But it turns out they were very correct.
The coyote-badger partnership creates perfect synergy when they are hunting ground squirrels. Badgers borrow underground, tunneling down toward the ground squirrels’ and prairie dogs’ nests (I’ll call them “squirrels”). Meanwhile, coyotes stay on top and catch the critters running scared out of their burrows. If the coyotes scare the squirrels into their tunnels, the badgers catch them.
By working together, both predators increase their chances. How is that possible if the other animal gets some of the squirrels? Their teamwork means that the coyote and the badger may not catch a squirrel each time they hunt. But even hunting alone, they don’t win on every hunt. By teaming up and scaring the squirrels into or out of the burrows, the joint coyote-badger hunt creates more chaos and it improves their overall chances.
In other words, coyotes and badgers both have a higher chance of catching a squirrel when they hunt together than when they hunt alone. According to scientists, a coyote can catch roughly 30% more prey when hunting with a badger than when hunting alone.
Here is a video showing coyotes and badgers hunting together:
Nature is quite amazing, isn’t it? There are many symbiotic relationships in the animal world, but this is one of the strangest partnerships. One would think that two predators with the same target would be foes, but it is rarer for these two turn against one another. They recognize that each one brings a complementary skill set. Not only do they tolerate one another; coyotes and badgers also have been seen walking, running, and even relaxing together between hunts.
My dog needs his own pet badger so that he can finally catch some squirrels. He also could use some help digging holes in the backyard. He tries to bury his toys and bones back there, but in summertime, the clay soil is hard as a rock. American badgers have huge claws and have been known to dig concrete up to 2 inches thick. A pet badger certainly could loosen the soil back there. In return, I’m sure my dog would let them play with some of his toys.
But on second thought, these badgers are mean-looking creatures. If there were a badger in our yard, I think my dog would run inside, hide under the table, and start whining. Maybe he’s not ready for his own pet.
Ecology Info Review: http://www.ecology.info/badger-coyote.htm
Badger-Coyote Partnership, Animal Planet Video: http://www.animalplanet.com/tv-shows/animal-planet-presents/videos/top-10-odd-animal-couples-badger-coyote/
Hiscock, Bruce. “Coyote and Badger: Desert Hunters of the Southwest.” Boyds Mill Press (2001).
Line, Les. "The benefits of badgers." National Wildlife. December-January 1996. (Dec. 22, 2008) http://secure.nwf.org/NationalWildlife/printerFriendly.cfm?issueID=103&articleID=1308
Minta, Steven C.; Minta, Kathryn A.; and Lott, Dale F. "Hunting Associations Between Badgers (Taixdea Taxus) and Coyotes (Canis Latrans)." Journal of Mammology. Vol. 73. Issue 4. 1992. (Dec. 22, 2008)http://www.jstor.org/pss/1382201
Images: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Parks Service (Public Domain), unless otherwise indicated. "Stinking Badgers" image from The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Warner Brothers, 1948).