Satara Summer 2021 – Fascinated with Spotted Hyenas

Spotted Hyenas are probably the most numerous large predator in the Kruger National Park, with a population estimated at around 7,000. While many people still hold on to incorrect beliefs that the Spotted Hyena is a cowardly scavenger, amongst other insults, we know better and are always excited when we get a chance to spend time with these fascinating carnivores.

For the entire duration of our December 2021 visit to the Satara area of the Kruger National Park a large pack of Hyenas maintained a den site about 3km to the north of the camp, along the H1-4 road. We regularly encountered these Hyenas, of all sexes and ages, while setting out or returning to camp and seldom left them without more photographs to add to the album.

This little family was a different story however. Along the Ngotso stream one very hot day early into our visit we came across a Spotted Hyena female with the two most lovable cubs imaginable. Though we looked for them in the same vicinity on several occasions later on we weren’t lucky to see them again.

Just south of Tshokwane, where the main road to Lower Sabie turns off, as we were heading home on the 2nd of January, we noticed a big female Hyena standing next to a culvert. In Kruger Spotted Hyenas make good use of these man-made tunnels as dens. Sure enough, as we brought our vehicle to a halt first one, then a second and then a third little head popped out from underneath the road to inspect the strange creature humming on top of their home.

So often when we encounter Spotted Hyenas they are on the move with a single-minded sense of purpose. This very big individual came running from the front at great speed along the road to Tshokwane one morning, only to disappear into the bush before we could even turn the car around.

While they’re not always doing it on the trot, it happens very often that we find a Hyena, like this one near Balule, striding along the road to pass us as if it didn’t even notice us.

Spotted Hyenas are great opportunists. We found this one hanging around a herd of impalas that included lots of newborn lambs along the S126 Sweni Road.

At the Vutomi Dam, west of Tshokwane, we saw two Spotted Hyenas enjoying a refreshing dip in a muddy pool on a hot day before they headed off into the veld.

One morning, near the turnoff to Olifants Rest Camp, we found a very nervous Spotted Hyena with the tip of its nose hanging by a thread.

Soon after we found four more Hyenas, which were very excited, patrolling up and down the road as if they were looking for something. Perhaps they were looking for the Hyena with the hurt nose. They ran along the road and then stopped at some invisible scent marks, growling and grunting loudly and scent marking in the same spot before running off to the next one. This was fascinating behaviour we have never observed before, and whoever they were looking for would have done well to stay out of this posse’s way!

When we passed the same way several hours later the matriarch of the group was still patrolling up and down the same stretch of road. How is that for dogged perseverance!?



25 thoughts on “Satara Summer 2021 – Fascinated with Spotted Hyenas

  1. Aletta - nowathome

    Die ou kleintjies is pragtig, maar ai ek sal maar ver wegbly van hulle af. Was eenkeer daar op Satara kamp met ‘n groep kinders. toe ons van die eetplek af terugstap kon ons ‘n trop van hulle sien net so ‘n end anderkant die heining. Die reuk wat mens van hulle af kry was oorweldigend! Pragtige foto’s soos altyd!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      Baie dankie, Aletta!

      Om saans langs die kampe se heinings te stap en met die kollig te kyk wat ons kan sien is vir ons n heerlike tydverdryf. En mens sien gewoonlik dan hienas. Ongelukkig gooi party besoekers vir hulle braaivleisoorskiet oor die draad. Hienas wat mense met kos assosieer is ekstra gevaarlik.


  2. wetanddustyroads

    Sjoe, jy het omtrent ‘n hand(e)vol foto’s hier! Ja, die kleintjies is oulik (meeste klein diertjies is), maar ek sal ‘n wye draai loop (of ry) rondom hulle. En dit lyk regtig of hulle altyd glimlag (of dalk is dit meer van ‘n “grin”) 😬.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. H.J. for avian101

    The hyenas have tremendous power hunting as a pack, they organize their hunting strategies well. I think I read once that their teeth are stronger than the lion’s the hyenas crack the bones and eat them too. Great photos and post. Thanks, D. and Joubert. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      We love spending time with hyenas, Janet, but I wouldn’t take any chances with them out in the wild. Watching safely from inside a car or from behind the camp fence is the best way to appreciate them. I especially had your daughter in mind when I put this post together.

      Liked by 2 people


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