The hyena that lived with wolves

PHOTO: Pixabay

Striped hyenas (Hyaena hyaena) are solitary hunters. They forage alone but occasionally come together to munch on a kill. They are far less sociable than their better-known cousins, spotted hyenas.

Both species are known to be highly intolerant of other large carnivores, and even of other members outside their immediate social group. They will also kill large aggressive dogs that get in their way.

That is why Vladimir Dinets of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, US, was surprised to find that a striped hyena had travelled with a pack of grey wolves - another hostile predator usually intolerant of other species.

"It went against everything that was known about wolves and hyenas," Dinets says. He first spotted tracks of both creatures near Eilat, in the Negev desert of Israel in 1994. This included three grey wolves and one striped hyena.

"Remarkably, in many places the hyena tracks were on top of wolf tracks… The tracks of the three wolves also overlapped each other in all possible orders," Dinets and his colleagues write in a new study in the journal Zoology in the Middle East. This indicates, they say, that these four animals were walking together at the same time.

Although Dinets was confident of his initial observations, he knew the footprints were not enough to convince his colleagues at the time. "Most zoologists today don't get trained in conventional tracking and know little or nothing about the kinds of data you can get from it."

It was only four years later, about 1,300m away, that Dinet's colleague Beniamin Eligulashvili, an Israeli zoologist, had a similar experience.

This time he saw the two species together, first-hand. He observed seven wolves with one hyena.

Read the full article here.