What Eats People, Part 15: Spotted Hyenas

Photos by Jerry Friedman/Creative Commons

These photos show what often happens when some other predator has made a kill and spotted hyenas want it: They take it by force. Of all the African predators and scavengers, only the lions and crocodiles hold their ground against the spotted hyena, and the lion will retreat if sufficiently outnumbered. 

There are three hyena species; the spotted kind is the largest and most dangerous. It has a long history as a predator of human beings, and a disturbing tendency to bite chunks out of people without killing them first. 

This species is also known to prey on people in serial fashion, with some clans having killed dozens or even hundreds of people over time. The news report linked below claims at least two separate attacks, involving six people, by the same hyena. More dubiously, it claims the animal is rabid. I wish we had more evidence here. The fact that it partially consumed one victim casts some doubt on the rabies hypothesis.

Bulawayo24 NEWS | Hyena mauls girl to death, attacks father and other men:

""When the father arrived at the scene, the hyena had already devoured part of the girl's face," said the police spokeperson.

Inspector Bhebhe said Boyna Mzilikazi fought the hyena with his bare hands for some minutes before two other men arrived to fend off the deadly animal.

"Mzilikazi fought the hyena with his bare hands until two of his neighbours, Godfrey Mukwasi and Passmore Mzilikazi, rushed to help him. They attacked the hyena with sticks until it finally ran away into the bush.

Boyna Mzilikazi was seriously injured and he sustained a deep gush on his right arm," he said.

Inspector Bhebhe said the hyena's reign of terror continued after it attacked two more people the following night."

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  1. I love hyenas. I guess I'm one of the few people who think they're beautiful XD

    Funnily enough, I had never stopped to think about hyena-crocodile interaction. Any info on that? I know big cats avoid crocs but also hunt them sometimes. Have hyenas ever been seen hunting crocodiles, or is the lack of gripping claws too much of a disadvantage for them?

  2. Not sure about that. My impression is that hyenas scavenge crocs, but do not prey on them. I'm not sure why that would be, though. I'll put this on my research list.


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