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An odd couple: Badgers and coyotes often pair up to find dinner

The two are known for hunting together in the western parts of the U.S., an alliance captured in some Native American mythology

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In this Nov. 11, 2015, photo, a coyote walks across fresh snow in Boulder, Colo.

In this Nov. 11, 2015, photo, a coyote walks across fresh snow in Boulder, Colo.

Brennan Linsley, Associated Press

Nature works in mysterious ways. Just ask a coyote and badger hunting duo.

Though coyotes usually prey on badgers, who are often slower and fatter, the two sometimes join forces for a common goal — food.

The animals are known for hunting together in the western parts of the United States, an alliance captured in some Native American mythology.

Scientists have confirmed the phenomenon many times, including in a study conducted by the University of California in 1992.

A recent video of this odd pairing, which resurfaced online, revealed more than what was previously known.

The 12-second clip shows a playful coyote waiting for its partner in crime while wagging its tail. Jennifer Campbell-Smith, an independent behavioral ecologist, said that this symbiotic relationship isn’t two “cold, robotic animals taking advantage of each other — they’re instead at ease and friendly.”

She notes that the badger, notoriously a grumpy being, also showed “happy behavior — for a badger.”

Who benefits from the coyote-badger relationship?

Coyotes are social animals but, as the National Park Service states, they do not form packs and usually hunt alone. However, the dry vegetative landscape in the West can prove difficult for catching prey.

The two creatures may be social but they aren’t exactly known to share their spoils. But there is plenty of practicality behind the symbiotic pairing.

For example, the badger is good at digging up a squirrel’s burrow, while the coyote uses its speed to scare the prey into its underground den.

This approach saves energy and increases efficiency because the animals don’t have to individually search and chase their own prey, as National Geographic reported.

A study by researchers at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming found that a majority of coyote-badger hunts feature one of each animal. About 9% involve one badger accompanied by two coyotes and nearly 1% of hunts involve one badger joining a trio of coyotes.

“Coyotes with badgers consumed prey at higher rates and had an expanded habitat base and lower locomotion costs,” according to the authors of the National Elk Refuge study, per Treehugger. “Badgers with coyotes spent more time below ground and active, and probably had decreased locomotion and excavation costs. Overall, prey vulnerability appeared to increase when both carnivores hunted in partnership.”

Not always friends

Just because they hang out sometimes doesn’t mean they’re always close buddies. As the winter rolls in, this partnership dissolves, too. The badger becomes less willing to play along as hibernating prey becomes an easier target.

This falling out in the colder months can become serious, “so much so that sometimes they even prey on each other,” according to Earthly Mission.

But as soon as winter ends and the rodents start waking up from their sleep, the badger is in need of a hunting companion once again.

Other animals with symbiotic relationships are water buffalos and cattle egrets, ostriches and zebras, and meerkats and drongos, according to Treehugger.