Monday, May 30, 2011

Did Someone Say Provisioning?

Spotted hyena moms do sometimes bring food back to the den to get their cubs used to eating meat early on in their lives. Considering meat and carcasses will comprise their diets long after they stop nursing, it’s interesting to witness some of their earliest experiences with solid food. Most moms will provision at some point, but when their cubs are at a communal den it is not very advantageous for a lower ranker to even think about bringing food back for her younguns (as the higher ranking individuals around will just steal the bounty for themselves).

The excitement surrounding provisioning events is fun to watch, and here is a clip of one that we saw just the other day. The adult female in this video (Clovis-- our Alpha in this clan) arrived at a scene just before this video was filmed where another clan mate had made a kill. Using her dominant ways, Clovis thought the food also looked good and quickly snatched the warthog carcass from under them. As we were less than 400 meters from the communal den at the time, she thought this might be a good time to give her cubs a snack.

Seconds after bringing the warthog back to the communal den, nearly every cub underground (~16 in total) emerged and tried their best to get a scrap. Unfortunately for them, Clovis has many older subadults still around in the clan who quickly came to mooch off of their mom’s steal, and prevent any others from enjoying even the slightest little bit.

During the entire ordeal, Clovis really tried her best to ensure that only her kin were getting the most from this carcass, but every now and then you’d see a non-related cub sneak in and get a piece. For some of the younger cubs, the act of getting a tiny morsel away from Clovis was almost more exciting than the thought of eating it in the end!


mynamehere said...

Awww <3 It's really interesting to see these guys interacting in groups. How old are the pups here? When do they switch completely to meat?

David said...

Her youngest cubs (Whiz and Ranch) were both born on the 16th of November, 2010, making them about 6-7 months old when this video was taped. Most of them will continue to nurse for 12-18 months (shorter for higher rankers, and longer for lower rankers), so they won't be eating meat exclusively for quite some time!

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science