Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Knowing that we animals are such creatures of habit, I searched out the pair again today. We had a skiff of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing, so visibility was limited. I found Coyote out hunting alone this morning, but tried again at lunchtime, once again getting lucky in finding the pair hunting together, seeking out prairie dogs. Badger came fairly close in my direction, but Coyote has wearied of my presence. All my images are taken from the confines of my pickup truck, on a muddy roadway with lots of industrial traffic from the natural gas fields.
I found a note in American Naturalist in 1884 describing the "curious companionship of the coyote and badger," based on observations made in Wyoming. Samuel Aughey wrote: "Sitting on a lofty butte examining some fossils, I saw, several hundred feet below me, a coyote and badger walking together, and every few minutes stopping and playing. The coyote would go in front of the badger, lay its head on the latter's neck, lick it, jump into the air, and give other expressions of unmistakable joy. Its antics with the badger were very much like that of a young dog playing with another pup, or when meeting its master. The badger seemed equally well pleased."
I found some other scattered mentions, and a 1992 paper by Steven Minta describing the coyote's increased hunting success rate when the animals cooperate with badgers. Minta's study used 42 badgers with implanted radio transmitters on the National Elk Refuge in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
I'm sure I would have been thrilled to witness this relationship wherever it may occur. But I find some pleasure in the fact that I am witnessing this in my own neighborhood, where coyotes are hunted, and amid active natural gas development. This is truly multiple-use land, and remains WILD.