The spotted hyena has a bad reputation in the bushveld for stealing leopard kills and putting pressure on lions to abandon their kills. While certainly notorious for their thieving ways and scavenging antics; the hyena is also actually a rather successful hunter. When there’s a free meal available, it’s far easier to intercept the big cat’s dinner than to chase and execute a kill. Serving a vital role in the ecology of the area, hyenas are actually some of the most important species within a reserve. Despite their notorious reputation for being sly, this Crocuta crocuta species is actually one of the most successful carnivores and proficient hunters in the animal kingdom!
The team at Ezulwini Game Lodges witnessed quite a chaotic and rare event. Instead of seeing hyenas waiting in the wings and scurrying away with the remnants of a kill, they actually saw a clan charge in and unnerve a lion pride. It’s not quite the same as conducting the hunt themselves, but it’s a step up from waiting around for titbits.
The hyenas flushed the lions out and settled into a rather delectable and meaty meal. Once the lions had regained their composure, they charged in and chased the hyenas away.
This time, the hyena scavenged for food, but they really are excellent hunters. A large percentage of their meals come from their own kills. So, just how does a hyena conduct its own kill? Here’s the lowdown on a hyena’s hunting technique.
- Hyenas are far from graceful and will blunder head on into a herd of game. They’ll select the oldest, the weakest or the injured as their intended victim.
- They hyena is a species bestowed with patience and stamina. The second step in making their own kill is the chase. With use of their strange gait and loping body they literally chase their “weak” target and stick to the course until their prey is exhausted. They have been known to reach speeds of up to 60km per hour, which fast given their rather heavy-set and awkward frame.
- A hyena can use their power of endurance and follow herds for almost 30km.
- When it comes the actual kill tactic, the hyena is somewhat clumsy and there is certainly no finesse involved. As they approach their target they begin to bite chunks out of its flesh. Their aim is to pierce major blood vessels so eventually the prey dies from blood loss. A hyena has a very powerful jaw that can bite through bone and pierce thick skin.