This article appeared in the February 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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You've heard of frog and toad. But are coyote and badger friends, too?

Peninsula Open Space Trust's (POST)
Footage of a coyote and badger playing together in the Santa Cruz Mountains from the Peninsula Open Space Trust.
Eva Botkin-Kowacki
Science, environment, and technology writer

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A delightful video broke through the political din on social media this week: A coyote and a badger were captured on film frolicking together like old pals. 

At the start of the video, which was captured as part of a research study on how wildlife interact with major roadways in California, the coyote can be seen jumping and wagging its tail as if to encourage someone off-screen to play. Then it starts walking into a culvert, but turns back to check to make sure the badger is following – which it is. The coyote trots off into the culvert with the badger waddling behind.

Such friendly interactions are typically seen only in Disney movies and children’s books. But this video brought cross-species cooperation to life for the many people who saw it. 

Ecologists were quick to point out that coyotes and badgers are known to hunt cooperatively, so capturing them on camera together doesn’t come as a complete surprise. But, as behavioral ecologist Jennifer Campbell-Smith pointed out on Twitter, that doesn’t mean the two predators are always friendly with each other – they’ve also been observed killing each other. 

Dr. Campbell-Smith suggests that assumptions about species following rigid rules about how they interact stem from a limited view on nature. Rather, she says, animal behavior is flexible, and many ecologists are starting to see what this video shows: “a thinking, complex, dynamic nature.”

This article appeared in the February 07, 2020 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 02/07 edition
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