Updated: 1 July 2021
North American Badgers (Taxidea taxus) and Coyotes (Canis latrans) are sometimes seen hunting together. Reports of their collaboration come from many parts of Canada, the United States, and Mexico. In this review, we summarize all that science currently knows about such Badger-Coyote associations.
Number of Participants
Badger-Coyote associations usually consist of a single Badger hunting with a single Coyote.
For example, on the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming, Minta et al. (1992) studied Coyotes and Badgers hunting together for Uinta Ground Squirrels. In 90% of the cases, a single Badger hunted with a single Coyote. In 9% of the cases, a single Badger hunted with a Coyote pair. In only 1% of the cases did a single Badger hunt with a group of three Coyotes.
Animals hunted by Badger-Coyote Teams
Badgers and Coyotes collaborate to catch burrowing rodents. Scientists have observed Badgers and Coyotes hunting together for the following prey:
Uinta Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus armatus)
Richardson’s Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus richardsonii)
Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus)
References used to compile this list: Cahalane (1950); Thompson (1979); Kiliaan (1991); Minta et al. (1992); Thornton et al. (2018).
Using camera traps, Thornton et al. (2018) made 46 detections of badgers. Of these, they recorded five instances of badgers associating with coyotes, all of which occurred in mid- to late summer when ground squirrels were most active.
Duration of Badger-Coyote Associations
Minta et al. (1992) timed over 214 Badger-Coyote associations and found that half of them lasted more than an hour. Two lasted more than 5 hours.
Advantages of Cooperation for Badgers and Coyotes
Badgers and Coyotes catch ground squirrels differently. Badgers usually dig them up, coyotes pounce on them or chase them. Ground squirrels often escape a digging Badgers by leaving their underground burrows and running away across the surface of the ground. These same ground squirrels escape Coyotes by running into burrows and disappearing underground.
A ground squirrel will theoretically have less chance to escape a Badger and a Coyote hunting together. If it runs away from the coyote by going underground into a burrow, the Badger will dig it up. If it leaves a burrow to escape the Badger, the Coyote will run after it and catch it.
Minta et al. (1992) attempted to test these ideas, but were only partly successful. Although they found that Coyotes hunting with Badgers captured 34% more ground squirrels than Coyotes hunting alone, their results were not statistically significant (P=0.087; one-tailed test). Possibly, a larger sample size would have achieved statistical significant.
Another shortcoming of the study that was pointed out by the researchers themselves, was that they could not determine if Badgers captured more ground squirrels when hunting with Coyotes because Badgers caught and ate their prey underground, where Minta and his fellow researchers could not observe them.
Badger-Coyote Interactions are Varied
Although Badgers and Coyotes often hunt together, they do not always do so. For example, at two sites in Central Oregon, Badgers and Coyotes hunted separately, while at a site in Southeastern Oregon they were often observed hunting together (Thompson 1979; Minta et al. 1992).
Coyotes sometimes eat Badgers and vice versa, but the majority of their interactions appear to be mutually beneficial or neutral (Kiliaan et al. 1991).
Because Badgers and Coyotes become shy and secretive when persecuted by humans, the best places to observe them hunting together are often in protected areas such as parks and refuges (Minta et al. 1992).
Aughey S (1884) Curious companionship of the Coyote and the Badger. American Naturalist 18: 644-645
Cahalane VH (1950) Badger-coyote “partnerships.” Journal of Mammalogy 31:354-355
Hawkins AH (1907) Coyote and Badger. Ottawa Naturalist 21:37
Kiliaan HPL, Mamo C, Paquet PC (1991) A Coyote, Canis latrans, and Badger, Taxidea taxus, interaction near Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Alberta. Canadian Field-Naturalist 105: 122-123
Lehner PN (1981) Coyote-badger associations. Great Basin Naturalist 41: 347-348
Minta SC, Minta KA, Lott DF (1992) Hunting associations between Badgers (Taxidea taxus) and Coyotes (Canis latrans). Journal of Mammalogy 73: 814-820
Thompson SE (1979) Socio-ecology of the Yellow-bellied Marmot (Marmota flaviventris) in central Oregon. PhD Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley
Thornton D, Scully A, King T, Fisher S, Fitkin S, Rohrer J (2018) Hunting associations of American badgers (Taxidea taxus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) revealed by camera trapping. Canadian Journal of Zoology 96: 649-786
Information about this Review
The author is: Dr. Paul D. Haemig (PhD in Animal Ecology).
The proper citation is:
Haemig PD (2021) Badger-Coyote Associations. ECOLOGY.INFO 11
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