What spotted hyenas eat and how they get their food depends on the time of day. Most people think hyenas are scavengers only. Spotted hyenas do scavenge during the day, but they have to compete with jackals and vultures for these leftovers. In a large group, spotted hyenas are able to chase lions away from a kill. But at night the hyena's impressive hunting skills come into play.
Able to chase down prey over long distances while running at up to 37 miles per hour (60 kilometers per hour), spotted hyenas often pick out the young or weak from the herd. What they hunt depends on numbers: the bigger the hyena clan, the larger the prey, from young rhinos, adult wildebeest, and zebras to Cape buffalo. The hyenas work in an organized pack when hunting such large prey. Smaller packs are used to chase down gazelles, eland, impalas, warthogs, and waterbucks.
When hunting alone, a spotted hyena goes after smaller prey such as ground birds, rabbits, springhare, bat-eared foxes, porcupines, jackals, fish, and puff adders—even an ostrich egg is fair game! They eat quite a bit at one time, and any leftovers are buried in a mud hole for a later meal.