If you’ve seen the animated classic The Lion King, you probably think of hyenas as sneaky tricksters that steal other animals’ food. That actually isn’t too far from the truth, although they aren’t known to break out into song. While these animals are much more complex than they are depicted in cartoons, one particular hyena lived up to the species’ reputation.
In this video, a spotted hyena in Zambia has stolen a kill from a leopard. The accompanying notes say that this isn’t unusual. Given that the hyena is larger than the leopard and the two compete over the same prey, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this happens with some regularity.
On this day, however, the leopard wasn’t about to let the hyena get away with his usual tricks. He goes after the hyena, who drops the carcass as he engages with the leopard. Neither one wants to back down.
After a few seconds, the leopard seems like he’s going to go on his way and let the hyena eat. But the hyena rushes at him, either because he feels like the leopard will double back or just to make a point. Either way, it ends up being the wrong decision for the hungry hyena.
Taking Back the Kill
While the hyena is distracted, a second leopard sneaks over and picks up the carcass in his mouth. He walks away calmly to eat. Both the hyena and the first leopard are left a little bit confused. Where exactly did the kill go? In this case, it paid off to sit and wait for just the right moment.
Hyenas do eat scavenged food but they are also capable of taking down their own prey. They have very powerful bites and have even been seen hunting and killing larger animals, including lions and wildebeests. They are opportunistic eaters, which means that they will eat just about any meat that comes in their path. Sometimes this means that they hunt and kill the meal themselves. Othertimes, such as in this video, they steal a kill from another hunter. They also eat carrion, carcasses left behind from another kill.
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