A very interesting clip just blew up the internet! If you haven’t seen this video of the coyote and the badger in your feed yet, it is something you need to watch.
In this new video, a coyote is seen actively interacting with what appears to be his new badger friend. While it may seem like this interspecies relationship is unlikely, it is actually well documented in the scientific literature.
This video shows two very important biology topics: Mutualism and Wildlife Corridors
Mutualism is a term for a relationship between individuals of different species, in which both organisms benefit. While the relationship between badgers and coyotes has been studied for some time, this brand new video was one of the first actual images of this interaction.
In this video, we can see several behaviors that indicate mutualism. First, the coyote does a typical dog behavior known as a “play bow”. At about 2 seconds into the video, the coyote jumps out of the culvert at the badger. The coyote lowers its front half to the ground, wags its tail, and puts its butt in the air. You may have seen your dog do this at some point. This behavior essentially means, “Let’s play!”
The second behavior that suggests these two animals are in a mutualistic relationship is that the badger does not try to attack or chase the coyote. Badgers are a notoriously aggressive species and have been known to attack humans and dogs. The fact that the badger did not try to attack the coyote is further evidence the pair are working together.
While the video simply shows the two creatures trotting off into the darkness, scientists and Native Americans have made many observations of these animals hunting together. It has been suggested that while hunting ground squirrels, working together gives both of the animals an advantage. The badger can find and dig up ground squirrel burrows efficiently. The coyote is a much faster runner, but not a great digger. The coyote can chase down any squirrels fleeing from the burrow. This scares some squirrels back into the burrow, where the badger is waiting. In this way, both the badger and the coyote benefit when they hunt together.
But, this video is also a great proof-of-concept for an import conservation technique: wildlife corridors.
This culvert is a part of a series of culverts that run underneath busy highways. Altogether, highways kill millions of animals every year as they try to cross. Animals were here long before highways, and their hunting grounds are often broken up by roadways, fences, and other human developments.
In an effort to combat this, scientists have been studying ways to allow safe passage for animals across these human structures. These structures and designs are collectively called “wildlife corridors”. This culvert was being studied as a safe passage for animals underneath a California highway. Clearly, it is working.
Plus, this is the first recorded evidence of a badger and a coyote actively traveling together through a wildlife corridor. Wildlife corridors like these are an amazing innovation that will help humans and wildlife live in harmony, with only a minor extra cost during construction and almost no maintenance.
Wildlife corridors like these are used by ecologists and environmental engineers to mitigate the impact of human development on wildlife. It is these sorts of advancements that will help humans balance our interactions with nature and preserve wildlife for many future generations!