Tomorrow is Endangered Species Day!
Badgers were once incredibly common in the Okanagan and Similkameen grasslands. Heavy persecution in the 20th century as well as continued road mortality and habitat loss means that there fewer than 30 individual badgers left in the entire Okanagan Valley.
Although they have a reputation for being vicious and aggressive to anyone who walk by, badgers will only attack if they feel threatened. In fact, badgers regularly cooperate with coyotes to go hunt ground squirrels together. This partnership has been observed for hundreds of years and combines the animals' hunting strengths to offset their weaknesses. It can increase their hunting success rate by nearly 30%!
Generally, badgers are slow runners but fast diggers, and coyotes are fast runners but slow diggers, so ground squirrels can evade them by either running out of or into their burrows, depending on the predator. When they hunt together however, if a ground squirrel is chased into its burrow by the coyote, where the badger can quickly try to dig it out. Alternatively, a badger may scare a ground squirrel into running out of its burrow, right into the paws of a waiting coyote! The resulting meal is not shared, but overall the hunting strategy works well ehough to give both hunters a more regular meal than if they were to hunt by themselves.
When they are hunting alone, badgers have also been observed using "tools" (sod clumps, pieces of wood, rocks) to plug the many entrances of ground squirrel burrows. This helps ensure that a squirrel doesn't escape out of its emergency "back doors" while a badger is hunting at the front!
Both photos courtesy of the USFWS