We brought Miss Clover the Badger and Streak the Coyote out into a field. They had never officially met before. After some experimental sniffing and digging, Miss Clover found a likely spot for a meal and started to dig for real, dirt flying up behind her like a little brown geyser. Streak stopped, watched what she was doing, and parked himself at what turned out to be a second entrance. A vole came shooting up seeking safety from the onslaught behind it. Streak pounced, caught it, held it in his mouth, walked around to Miss Clover and trotted up to her as she continued furiously digging, oblivious to the vole on the other end. Streak tossed it invitingly up in the air. She ignored it – she probably didn’t even notice she was so into her digging. He did it again. She didn’t see. Still holding it delicately between his jaws, he tried bumping her in the side with his nose to get her attention. It didn’t work. He bumped her side with his nose again, harder this time.
Finally pulled from her focus, Miss Clover noticed, stopped digging, and making for Streak bumped him back, decisively, in his side. Still intent on a friendly encounter, he bowed, hind end up in the air tail wagging, front legs flat on the ground, inviting her to play.
It would be nice to be able to report that she responded to the clear invitation to play, but that is not the case. Despite all his best seductive efforts, she single-mindedly returned to her digging. But she did not attack him. She wasn’t even irritated – she was simply otherwise occupied and telling him to leave her alone.
Seen through the lens of biology, the likely explanation is that there is an advantage to coyotes to hunt with badgers. That makes sense. But it doesn’t mean that is the only thing going on. What was the “advantage” for Streak in inviting Miss Clover to play? Why was there no aggression on her part? Perhaps when relieved of the stress of needing to find food, safety, territory in which to hunt, an entirely different side of wild animals has the freedom to express itself. Perhaps when given the opportunity, without stress, they enjoy the company of species other than their own. I would like to hear your thoughts.
by Susan Eirich, Ph.D.