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Desert Diary


People and dogs have joined together to hunt for thousands of years. Such a relationship between different species that benefits both is called mutualism. According to some, a different kind of dog—a coyote—teams up in such a relationship with a badger. The coyote's keen sense of smell and the badger's unrivaled ability as a digger are viewed as ready-made for partnership. According to this belief, the coyote locates inhabited rodent burrows, and the badger moves in to do the heavy earth moving, with the pair sharing the bounty.

Others are more skeptical, believing that the cunning coyote has learned that trailing along behind a badger may reap rich rewards. As a badger roots out its hapless prey, a window of opportunity may open for the coyote—to snatch away dinner. Thus there may actually be two victims—the rodent who loses its life and the badger who loses a meal. Mutualism? Or thievery?
pen and ink

Listen to the Audio (mp3 format) as recorded by KTEP, Public Radio for the Southwest.


Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

Canis latrans   Taxidea taxus

Left: Coyote (Canis latrans), photographer: Lloyd Glenn Ingles. © 1999 California Academy of Sciences. Right: Badger (Taxidea taxus, photographer: Gerald and Buff Corsi; © 1999 California Academy of Sciences.



Verts, B. J., and L. N. Carraway. 1998. Land Mammals of Oregon. University of California Press, Berkeley, 668 pp.

Web Resources

University of Michigan Museum of Zoology.