Predator interactions can be the most exciting things to view in the bush, but sometimes the drama doesn’t escalate beyond a certain point, especially if there’s not food on the table.
It’s not always a case of one species trying to kill the other. It’s actually quite uncommon for things to get that far, either because one of the animals makes tracks out of there or the two species hold back. Self-preservation is an important part of staying alive in the bush (a bit obvious, that), and if there isn’t a definite resource to compete over, more often than not rival predators will let each other be. Except for lions. They’ll regularly try to kill other predators. But that’s a different story altogether…
When hyenas are involved things can get aggressive, but they hardly ever result in bloodshed, for the simple reason that the hyenas are simply interested in scavenging meat, and do not view the opposing predator as a food source. Granted, if they come across the carcass of a leopard or lion they may well devour it, but for them to actively kill their rival is quite extreme.
A weak or injured rival might be a different story; the female cheetah with one eye was killed by hyenas, and old lions are sometimes finished off this way, but for the most part, hyenas will investigate the potential for a meal and if they find nothing they will move off.
The two sub-adult cheetahs were visited by a hyena recently. It most likely detected their scent and trailed them to see if they had made a kill.
The hyena approached the cheetah siblings in a wide circle, sniffing and casting sidelong glances at them. When it failed to find a carcass, it rushed in on the pair, snarling in an attempt to scare them off. This is the same tactic is would use to chase a leopard from a kill; pure intimidation. Realising the male cheetah it was running at wasn’t backing down, it swung towards the smaller female, but quickly realised the male was charging up from behind it, so tucked in its tail and swung round to face him. The male cheetah backed down, and at the same time the hyena realised there was no useful purpose to be served by pressing home the charge.
The uneasy truce ended with the hyena lying down and going to sleep, and the two cheetahs slinking off with continual backwards glances towards their foe.
It was interesting to see the clear position of dominance the hyena knew it held. Totally unruffled, it was walking around sniffing for any sign of a free meal, completely unconcerned about the cheetahs, something it would certainly not have done had it been lions it was dealing with.
Predators are very good at sizing up a situation and deciding whether the odds are in their favour or not, but luckily for the cheetah, this time they didn’t have any food to lose, so all three of the protagonists were able to go on their way in peace, wihout having lost anything in the encounter.