Wild animals of different species going on adventures together is a fiction invented by animated films—or is it? A new video, in which a coyote and badger are seen traveling together at night, has us questioning reality as we know it.
The video, shared to Twitter by the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), shows a coyote and a badger using a culvert to travel beneath a highway near Gilroy, California. During the 13-second scene, the coyote assumes a playful posture, as if to coax the furry sidekick to hurry up and follow it into the dark tunnel. The duo then march into the tunnel, seemingly totally comfortable with one another, in what looks like Disney’s latest foray into hyperrealistic CGI.
It’s “the first time this type of behavior has been captured in the San Francisco Bay Area,” according to the tweet. The group—a U.S. not-for-profit that protects open spaces for wildlife—is currently running a program that uses cameras to chronicle the way animals interact with major roadways near the southern tip of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Using these cameras, the group has captured video of skunks, bobcats, raccoons, and other animals using culverts and areas beneath bridges as passageways. Without these safe travel spaces, animals can get killed while trying to cross busy roads, or become genetically isolated from their own species.
“Our project is focused on identifying the swaths of habitat that wildlife are using to navigate to these undercrossing features and also to learn whether there are locations where there are concentrations of wildlife-vehicle collisions,” said Neal Sharma, POST’s Wildlife Linkages Program Manager, in a recent POST blog post. “These are important dynamics to understand, so that regional conservation efforts can take them into account,” he said, adding that “we consistently find that animals are able to locate and use features that provide them with safe passage underneath the road surface.”
Apparently the coyote-badger pairing shouldn’t be surprising at all. Videographer Russ McSpadden, who tweeted out the video earlier today (for which he’s been rewarded with 7.5 million hits in just 18 hours), said, “coyotes and badgers are known to hunt together.”
A 2016 article from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service describes the behavior, which is actually quite devious:
Coyotes and badgers are known to hunt together and can even be more successful hunting prairie dogs and ground-squirrels when they work in tandem. Studies have shown that this unusual relationship is beneficial for both species. The coyote can chase down prey if it runs and the badger can dig after prey if it heads underground into its burrow systems. Each partner in this unlikely duo brings a skill the other one lacks. Together they are both faster and better diggers than the burrowing rodents they hunt.
So by combining their unique powers, the coyote and badger are greater than the sum of their parts. And if a playful friendship is forged as a consequence of this interspecies union, all the better. March on, coyote and badger, and best of luck on your next adventure.