Geographical Range Sub-Saharan Africa
Habitat Deserts, savannas, bushlands, rocky areas
Scientific Name Crocuta crocuta
Conservation Status Near threatened

The spotted hyena is one of the many large carnivores (meat-eaters) on the African savanna. Although many people think of it as a scavenger, the hyena is actually more of a predator. It is an expert hunter that travels in packs of up to 20 or more animals.

Hyenas not only prey on almost any kind of live animal they can catch -- large and small -- but also eat carrion (dead animals), bones, eggs, and even animal droppings. Their powerful jaws enable them to crush even large animal bones. This kind of diet often turns their scat a highly visible, chalky white color.

A pack or "clan" of spotted hyenas is usually made up of related individuals who defend their territory against intruding clans. Each clan creates at least one den, consisting of a series of underground tunnels dug into a mound of high ground. The den is the center of the group's activity, and the place where breeding females raise their pups together.

Being social animals, hyenas have a wide range of calls that they use to communicate with each other. Their whoops, shrieks and famous cackling "laughs" are often heard across the African savanna, helping clan members stay in touch.