Competition and cooperation aren't mutually exclusive.
 Just ask a coyote or a badger.
Both are crafty carnivores, and since they often hunt
 the same prey in the same prairies, it would make
 sense for them to be enemies, or at least to avoid
each other. But while they don't always get along,
coyotes and badgers also have an ancient
arrangement that illustrates why it can be smart
for rivals to work together.
An example of that partnership recently unfolded
 on a prairie in northern Colorado, near the
National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center.
 And it was captured in photos, both by a wildlife
camera trap and by sharp-eyed photographers:
coyote and badger hunting togetherA field camera caught this amazing shot, which shows the coyote and badger trotting across the landscape with a prairie dog looking on in the foreground. (Photo: National Black-footed Ferret Conservation Center/Facebook)
coyote and badger hunting togetherThe duo takes a break from pursuing prairie dogs. (Photo: Kimberly Fraser/USFWS)
coyote and badger hunting together(Photo: Kimberly Fraser/USFWS)
coyote and badger hunting togetherThe coyote and badger survey a black-tailed prairie dog colony near Wellington, Colorado. (Photo: Ryan Moehring/USFWS)
While it's relatively rare to capture such good photos of
 a hunt like this, the phenomenon is well-documented.
It was familiar to many Native Americans long before
Europeans reached the continent, and scientists have
studied it for decades. It has been reported across
much of Canada, the United States and Mexico,
 according to Ecology Online, typically with one badger
 hunting alongside one coyote.
(In one study at the National Elk Refuge in Wyoming,
 90 percent of all coyote-badger hunts featured one of
 each animal, while about 9 percent involved one
badger with two coyotes. Just 1 percent saw a lone
 badger join a coyote trio.)
But why would these predators work together at all?
 When one of them finally catches something, they
aren't known to share the spoils. So what's the point?
coyote and badger hunting togetherWorking together helps each species pursue prey more effectively. (Photo: Kimberly Fraser/USFWS)
The point, apparently, is to improve the likelihood that
at least one of the hunters will snag some prey. Even
if that means the other one ends up empty-handed, the
 partnership seems to pay off for both species in the long
Each member of the hunting party has a distinct set
of skills. Coyotes are nimble and quick, so they excel
at chasing prey across an open prairie. Badgers are
slow and awkward runners by comparison, but they're
better diggers than coyotes are, having evolved to
pursue small animals in underground burrow systems.
 So when they hunt prairie dogs or ground squirrels
on their own, badgers usually dig them up, while
coyotes chase and pounce. The rodents therefore
use different strategies depending which predator
is after them: They often escape a digging badger
 by leaving their burrows to flee aboveground, and
 evade coyotes by running to their burrows.
When badgers and coyotes work together,
however, they combine these skills to hunt
more effectively than either could alone.
Coyotes chase prey on the surface, while
 badgers take the baton for subterranean
pursuits. Only one may end up with a meal,
 but overall, research suggests the
 collaboration benefits both hunters.
"Coyotes with badgers consumed prey
at higher rates and had an expanded habitat
base and lower locomotion costs," according
 to the authors of the National Elk Refuge study.
 "Badgers with coyotes spent more time below
ground and active, and probably had decreased
locomotion and excavation costs. Overall, prey
vulnerability appeared to increase when both
carnivores hunted in partnership."
coyote and badger hunting togetherA coyote-badger duo at Valles Caldera National Preserve in New Mexico. (Photo: Larry Lamsa/Flickr)
Badgers and coyotes aren't always friendly, though.
While the majority of their interactions "appear to be
mutually beneficial or neutral," Ecology Online notes
they do sometimes prey on each other. The two species
have developed "a sort of open relationship," according
 to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), since they
 tend to collaborate in warmer months, then often drift
apart as winter sets in.
"In the winter, the badger can dig up hibernating prey
 as it sleeps in its burrow," the FWS explains. "It has
no need for the fleet-footed coyote."
Not at the time, anyway. But winter eventually turns
to spring, and these two hunters may start to need
each other again. And just as they have for thousands
 of years, they'll make peace, embrace their differences
and get back to work.
"Each creature has its own purpose" -- 
Pope Francis on the moral imperative 
to preserve biodiversity during the 
Sixth Extinction