Friday, August 19, 2022

How to dart a hyena

Hi all,

It’s been a busy time in Fisi Camp (“fisi” means “hyena” in Swahili for those of you who are new to the blog), so this will be a short and sweet update. We are currently prepping for a massive study on communication and coordination in spotted hyenas (read more here: If all goes well, we will be deploying custom-made collars on all juveniles and adults in our Serena South Clan starting this fall. These collars will record all vocalizations, fine-scale movements, and GPS locations of each individual, allowing us to monitor the clan around the clock for a few months. Very exciting!! 

We are currently finishing up a small pilot project to test out the collars to make sure that everything works. Last month, we deployed collars on two very lucky KCM females (BRGR and BLLN). Here’s a “behind-the-scenes” look into what it takes to get these collars on:

Step 1: Find the hyena. 

This is often easier said than done. Not only do we need to find a specific individual (luckily this time any adult female hyena in KCM clan was good), but we also need to make sure that they are in a “good” darting situation. This means that they are ideally in short grass, away from any water sources, and with no other predators nearby.

Step 2: Dart the hyena.

This is left to the professionals – we had two vets from Kenyan Wildlife Services who helped us with this step. It is important to note that we darted and handled all individuals with the proper permits. I very highly do NOT recommend that you go out and dart your neighborhood hyena after reading this blog post.

Step 3: Wait for the hyena to go down.

We generally have to wait 10-15 minutes for the anesthetics to work their magic before we can approach the darted individual. On an unrelated note, these drugs also work great as a hyena laxative.

Step 4: Collect biological samples and body measurements.

Dartings give us a unique opportunity to collect critical data about the hyenas that we wouldn’t be able to get from purely observational studies. We generally collect blood, saliva, paste, and hair samples, as well as body and dental measurements.

Step 5: Fit the collar.

Now comes the fun part: attaching our precious collars to the individual. This is a pretty simple step – we just need to ensure that the collar is loose enough to not cause discomfort, but tight enough to not fall off easily. 

Step 6: Let the hyena recover.

Once we’re done collecting our samples and attaching the collar, the vets will administer the antidote. Within 10-20 minutes, the hyena is awake and ready to rumble (with a fancy new necklace!)

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science