Fight for food- Scavengers of Grassland

By Yogesh Puranik

We woke up at 3 AM and started our search for the Striped Hyena, a grassland scavenger, at 3:30 AM even though We were given indications that the hyena’s activities had commenced, leaving us uncertain about the impending drama that lay ahead. When we arrived at the location at around 5AM, we discovered our other car stopped in the farmland next to the grassland. We came closer and noticed a ghostly grassland standing 20 to 25 feet in front of us. Only a hyena could be seen in the pitch-black as it crossed the farm and disappeared into the dense undergrowth. After deciding to explore the area and look for further activities, we returned after an hour. There, in slightly better lighting, we observed a hyena scavenging on some kill. After searching for over ten years, this was our first meeting with a hyena, so we just snapped a few pictures. We then witnessed the kill, a cow that the villagers had thrown. The farm animals are typically thrown by the villages near the grasslands so that scavengers like hyenas can consume them.

Hyenas are scavengers who primarily consume dead animals, despite the fact that they are also capable of killing their prey. Due to urbanization, habitat degradation, and prey shortage, striped hyenas are a species that is almost threatened. Hyenas are massive animals with shorter hind legs than front limbs.

While photographing the beauty from our cars, something unexpectedly caught our attention in the distance of the farm with our left eye. I repositioned the camera and was shocked to discover an additional predator and the Indian Grey Wolf, the ruler of the grasslands. We weren’t sure what to do next because the wolf also wanted to devour a piece of the cow. Female wolves soon followed this alpha male and started to march towards the kill. Hyena, who had already consumed a portion of the cow, then disappeared once more, most likely into a nearby lair. Wolves arrived at the scene right away and began to consume the kill. Wolfs are typically regarded as adept hunters who occasionally scavenge on dead animals and poultry manure.

For another 10 minutes, the wolves kept gobbling their food until all of a sudden, we noticed hyena returning to the kill. However, the hyena was unaware of the wolf ’s activities, and as soon as he spotted the wolves, he charged at them, giving us a fantastic natural history experience for the following 5 to 10 minutes. Hyenas can be tricky to see, and in this case, there were wolves and hyenas fighting over prey. Both wolves were forced away from the area by hyena, which began eating again. When the alpha wolf unexpectedly appeared in the back and yanked the hyena’s tail, we noticed that the hyena had mistakenly believed the wolves had moved on and had begun to wander back to the kill.

Hyena came back, tore off a large part of the cow’s body, and then ran in the direction of the den. As we were returning, we noticed a smaller animal being killed. We were shocked to see that it was a Golden Jackal and neither a wolf nor a fox. He was aware that he had a very limited amount of time because jackals are smaller than wolves and hyenas. In order to avoid fighting, he ate fast before fleeing, and another wolf soon joined the group. Jackal is both a predator and a scavenger like a wolf.

As we came back from lunch, we noticed that stray dogs started to consume the kill. Then a large herd of sheep, goats, along with shepherds appeared. All of the shepherds were extremely cautious because wolves and hyenas occasionally prey on these farm animals. Since there had been little activity for nearly two hours and it was getting late, we decided to wait another hour. A short while later, we noticed wolves returning to the game. They were present and observed a jackal approaching from a distance. Jackal returned, finished his meal, and then left. It was late at night, and we speculated that a hyena may have arrived with its young to join the festivities. The sun was almost setting when we spotted a hyena scanning the area. In contrast to the morning, the hyena was extremely timid and slow to move. Thousands of flies were present as the hyena approached the kill and resumed its mission of scavenging the meal. As it started to become dark, we made the decision to move. This was one of the most unforgettable days of our lives since we got to see grassland scavengers like Hyena, Wolf, and Jackal struggle over food.

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