Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cooperation continues

I've been making frequent visits up the road to keep tabs on Coyote and Badger, and I'm pleased to report that their cooperative hunting relationship continues. I first saw and photographed them on Sunday. On Monday, it was a dreary and rainy overcast day, but I did manage to find the pair again, just as Badger went aground and Coyote began a nap, so I left them alone.

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.

 Coyote wouldn't come closer to the road with me present (although I see they cross the road several times each day), so they resumed their hunting in the distance.

 Click on the photos to see the larger images. On Sunday it seemed that Coyote was the leader in terms of determining their direction of movement, but today Badger was definitely the leader.
 I've done a little research on what we know about the badger-coyote relationship, and in reality, we know little.

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.


BorderWars said...

I imagine this would make great material for a children's book.

Cat Urbigkit said...

Several people have suggested that! It sure has been a kick to watch these two.

Phil Yearout said...

I love the shot of both looking toward the camera.

Cowgirl Red said...

Fascinating and exhilarating! Cat thanks. yes! Childrens book. Terah

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Anonymous said...

Gee, I thought I was lucky when I watched a badger swim across the Madison River above $3 Bridge this summer. Cat, you do need to work this into a childrens book.

Matthew in Missouri

Anonymous said...

dobie voice coyote badger

see also

I vaguely remember reading about coyote badger stuff in his coyote book as well as elsewhere.


Cat Urbigkit said...

Thanks all! I'll give the kid's book idea some serious thought.
Matthew in Missouri, you might have me beat after all. SWIMMING?
WH, I don't have to Google J. Frank Dobie - that one is on my shelf. Great book.

Anonymous said...

Just.....utterly.....amazing! Not ONLY a children's book, but I'll bet various wildlife magazines(and perhaps even National Geo and/or the Smithsonian) would LOVE you to write this up as an illustrated-with-photos brief article!!! Might actually pay you real Uhmairikin money, too! And some of the photos will havta be in the sequel, "Return To Coyote Rocks"......L. B.

Cat Urbigkit said...

Dang Lane, another great idea - two actually since I love the "Return to Coyote Rocks" notion! I think I'll give some thought to a write-up for a kid's magazine.

Anonymous said...

I read this to my kids ages 9 & 5. This is a great example of how anyone can be friends regardless of our differences. Now we need to work on this as humans!

Anonymous said...

Coyote and Badger by Bruce Hiscock, a children's story in a National Geographic basal reading series for elementary school.