Over the last century, biologists have worked hard to document a rather odd pair of hunting buddies: the coyote and the badger. While the nature of their relationship has been debated – is it truly symbotic or merely more efficient? – it is a fascinating natural phenomenon to observe. Of course, the interaction between the two animals has long been recognized by Native Americans, like the Navajo and Hopi, who have countless stories about the coyote (the trickster) and the badger (the long-clawed, clever digger) hunting and sharing meals together.
This spring, Jeff Reed, a graduate student studying science and natural history filmmaking, was visiting American Prairie to capture footage of our most recent bison relocation. After the bison were released, Jeff set up his camera at a nearby prairie dog town to add to his b-roll footage of the small rodents. Little did he know he was about to get a show!
Shared here for the first time, you will see a badger enter the town, followed by a lone coyote. While Jeff wasn’t so lucky as to capture the two in action in the same frame, the experience is special for other reasons, namely that it happened at all. America’s grassland ecosystems have largely been lost and converted to other uses since the time of Lewis and Clark, who documented sights like prairie dog towns stretching into the distant horizon. After decades of government-sponsored poisoning of prairie dogs, followed by devastating bouts of sylvatic plague and the systematic shooting of both the rodents and coyotes, the chance to see a vibrant dog town complete with active predators is both rare and inspirational. So rare, in fact, that a couple of mule deer stopped and watched, too.