The spotted or laughing hyena is the largest member of Hyaenidae inhabiting open areas throughout sub-Saharan Africa. These highly social predators are often erroneously labeled as strict scavengers like other members of this clade of hyaenid carnivorans. Other species include, striped hyenas, brown hyenas, and aardwolves (earth wolves).
Unlike other hyaenids, the foraging ecology of spotted hyenas is often considered similar to that of large African felids and canids with respect to their prey base and predatory behavior. They are certainly known for being indiscriminant scavengers with robust digestive systems permitting the consumption of very large ungulate bones. However, they hunt their fair share of ungulates, competing heavily with lions. Common prey include wildebeests, zebra and Thompson’s gazelles, but as predators they are also quite indiscriminant. Spotted hyenas have been reported to catch fish, tortoises, pythons, pangolins, and prey on black rhinos, hippo calves, young elephants, as well as humans, among other species, including a host of different ungulate species. They will avoid some of the largest of adult ungulates. In captivity, they may live as long as 10-12 years, but have been known to live as long as 25 yrs. These nocturnal animals are not rare is zoo collections, but are on display primarily for educational purposes, as their conservation status places them at a lower risk than many other members of their large African carnivore community.
The San Diego Zoo, the Bronx Zoo, the St. Louis Zoo, Toronto Zoo, Miami MetroZoo, Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, the Milwaukee County Zoo, the San Antonio Zoo, the Denver Zoo, the Honolulu Zoo, the Sacramento Zoo, the Oakland Zoo, the Rio Grande Zoo (NM), the Seneca Park Zoo (Rochester, NY), and the Oklahoma City Zoo are just some of the living institutions where you can see spotted hyenas in North America.
I welcome you to join firstname.lastname@example.org, a mailing list that serves global husbandry and health professionals working with canids and hyaenids managed in captive facilities for behavioral/endocrinological research and for educational exhibition.
Dr. Jordan Schaul, Zoo Keeper Emeritus