Do hyenas scavenge more than lions?

Answered by Willian Lymon

In many areas of Africa, it is true that hyenas tend to hunt more food than they scavenge, while lions, on the other hand, scavenge more than they hunt. This is an interesting phenomenon that can be attributed to the different hunting and feeding behaviors of these two carnivores.

1. Hyenas as hunters:
Hyenas are known for their remarkable hunting skills and opportunistic nature. They have a unique hunting strategy where they work together in large groups called clans to bring down and kill their prey. These clans are usually led by females, who are larger and more dominant than the males. Hyenas are intelligent and adaptable hunters, capable of taking down a wide range of prey, including wildebeest, zebra, and even larger animals like buffalo.

Personal experience: I vividly remember witnessing a hyena hunt during a safari in Kenya. The clan of hyenas was coordinating their movements to isolate a young wildebeest from the herd. It was fascinating to see how they worked together and eventually brought down their prey.

2. Hyenas as scavengers:
While hyenas are skilled hunters, they are also known for their scavenging behavior. They have extremely powerful jaws and can easily crush and consume bones, making them efficient scavengers. Hyenas often scavenge from other predators, such as lions, as well as from carcasses left behind by natural causes or other predators. This scavenging behavior allows them to capitalize on the kills made by other animals, saving them energy and effort.

3. Lions as scavengers:
Lions, on the other hand, have a reputation for being lazy hunters and more opportunistic scavengers. They are apex predators and can bring down large prey such as giraffes, zebras, and even buffaloes, but their hunting success rate is relatively low compared to hyenas. Lions often rely on their strength in numbers, as they typically hunt in coordinated groups called prides. However, due to their size and strength, they can intimidate other predators, including hyenas, and steal their kills.

Personal experience: During a safari in Tanzania, I had the chance to observe a lion pride feasting on a fresh kill. Interestingly, a group of hyenas approached, hoping to scavenge some leftovers. The lions fiercely defended their meal, growling and lunging at the hyenas until they eventually retreated.

4. Factors influencing scavenging and hunting behaviors:
The differing hunting and scavenging behaviors of hyenas and lions can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, hyenas have a stronger social structure and cooperative hunting strategies, which allows them to take down larger prey. Lions, on the other hand, rely more on their physical strength and intimidation tactics.

Additionally, competition plays a role in these behaviors. Lions and hyenas often come into conflict as they both hunt similar prey and scavenge from the same carcasses. This competition can lead to intense interactions and even alter the balance between hunting and scavenging for both species.

While both hyenas and lions are predators with the ability to hunt and scavenge, their behaviors differ. Hyenas are skilled hunters and opportunistic scavengers, while lions are known for their scavenging tendencies and reliance on their strength in numbers. The interplay between these two species in terms of competition and resource availability further influences their hunting and scavenging behaviors in different regions of Africa.