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How do I realistically keep my large mammalian predator hidden from other pack hunters.

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What coloration pattern/ technique could a large mammalian predator employ to evade detection from other mammalian predators at 100 -> 20 meter distances (or close enough so that it could sprint into them, and run away).

In my world building scenario there exists what essentially amounts to a Giant Hyena. This animal has the following characteristics:

  • It's 3000kg

  • It hunts mostly solo

  • It has amazing sense of hearing and smell (but otherwise not particularly spectacular eyesight)

  • It is "smart" however you want to take that.

  • It gets its food from scaring away other scavengers from opportunistic meals

  • It has massive neck and jaw muscles

  • It also gets food from tracking pack hunters, figuring out the size of the group from a long distance away using its advanced sense of hearing and smell, then using its powerful jaws to pick one of the animals off and run away with it

  • It lives in what is essentially the African Savannah and slightly wetter places. So it would prey on other Hyenas, Painted dogs, and Lions.

In order to sneak up on pack predators, it needs to be able to get in close enough undetected, so at the right moment it can pick up one of the pack members and sprint away with a meal. I don't need something that works 100% of the time, just enough that it won't go extinct because of the failure rates.

Changing the environment to a degree is acceptable.

Why should this post be closed?

2 comments

For what it's worth, about that success rate... wolves are widely considered quite successful hunters, and I would need to dig out an actual number, but as I recall, they only actually succeed in bringing down a prey animal in something like one hunt in ten or twenty. That also, of course, depends on how you delineate the "hunt"; any wild predator is basically hunting a large portion of their waking time, albeit likely most of that time at what would be considered a low intensity. ‭Canina‭ 2 months ago

Also, 3000 kg is huge. For comparison, a hippopotamus is typically 1300-1500 kg (says Wikipedia), and a rhinoceros varies between 850 kg and 3200 kg depending on subspecies and gender. ‭Canina‭ 2 months ago

3 answers

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I don't think it is feasible for an elephant-sized hyena to hide on the actual hunting grounds, least of all from predators that have similar excellent senses.

What it should do is to lay low some distance away from good hunting grounds, then watch the sky for carrion birds. If a predator has successfully killed its prey, vultures and crows etc are likely to appear circling in the sky, waiting for that predator to finish its meal.

That's where your giant hyena starts running in the direction of where the birds are circling. It doesn't need to be all that stealthy, just big and intimidating. It doesn't run away with the meal, it just claims it for itself and eats it on the spot. In case it manages to catch one of the predators too, all the more food.

For this tactic to work, the carcass needs to be large enough so it can't be carried away by the predator who made the kill, which is most often the case.

Evolution might benefit the giant hyena if it indeed often kills the original predator too. That way it leaves more food behind for carrion birds and end up living in symbiosis with them.

With this approach, eye sight might be important though. Possibly hearing too, if it can hear carrion birds screaming from a long distance away. Speed might be important.

I'd assume that the female of these giant hyenas raises the pups alone - then the pups simply follow in tow best they can when the adult female starts running, but stay in the background until mama has secured the food, much like the behavior of other predator pups/cubs.

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Idea 1

Everyone needs water. Your Giant Hyena frequents watering holes and waits for prey to arrive. Maybe it camoflages itself with mud or lurks underneath the surface of the water. Once a target is sufficiently close it snaps its neck out and chomps them.

If the predator is intelligent it may even be able to predict the movement of packs of other hunters; perhaps it uses vibrations to sense where herds of prey animals are and therefore where the non-apex predators are likely to congregate?

Look up videos of crocodiles for a similar water-predator strategy. You will likely need to justify a) whatever weird evolution sent this mammal aquatic and b) why it targets predators over prey - as Olin points out this is relatively weird behavior for various "real world" reasons.

Idea 2

The "Giant Hyena" is simply a normal hyena (or other predatory species) with giantism, enhanced senses, and cannibalistic tendencies. Insert genetic mumbo-jumbo here. It therefore lives as part of a standard hyena (or other) pack. It uses its size to bully other scavengers from carcasses but turns on its own mates when food becomes scarce. Once sated it will attempt to track and join another group of predators, if successful the cycle repeats.

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Forgot to put I intended this animal to be more intelligent than traditional mammalian apex predators, both ideas are unique and interesting, never thought of a "cuckoo" strategy. ‭Cazadorro‭ 2 months ago

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What you are asking for is unrealistic. 3000 kg is huge. That's over four times the mass of a typical rhinoceros, for example.

Being really large like that lets it bully its way to some other animal's kill. Even as a carcass scavenger, it will be very tough to find enough carcasses or others' kills to feed that huge mass. Note that terrestrial animals anywhere near that size are all herbivores. There is a good reason for that.

Carnivores need to be fast and agile. You can't be either of those while dragging around 3000 kg. Note that the largest carnivores actually get most of the food by scavenging than by killing it themselves. Grizzly bears are a good example. They don't hunt down deer, moose, or whatever, because they'd never catch a normal healthy animal.

The largest terrestrial (aquatic environment has totally different tradeoffs, but that is not what you asked about) mainly-carnivore is probably the polar bear. But, it does that by hunting very specific prey on land where the prey can't move well. Polar bears and wolves overlap ranges in some places, but polar bears don't regularly take down wolves. They also don't take down caribou, but wolves do.

So, your large animal is a scavenger at best, although even that is doubtful.

3000kg is huge, but that's no where near the largest size a terrestrial carnivore ever, T Rex by comparison was 8000kg to 15000kg

T. rex lived in a very different environment. You'd have to change a lot of things for an animal like that to make any sense today. However, the real point is that T. rex was likely not a carnivore at all, but a scavenger. To be fair though, reputable scientists still disagree about that one.

Additionally the animal I propose is not fast and agile, and like other large animals carnivores and other animals, like bears, would rely on sprinting for short distances

But what it is supposedly catching can also sprint for short distances. You said that your animal's prey is "pack hunters". Those are able to run quickly, because that's how they catch their own dinner.

If this could work, then why don't grizzly bears do exactly what you propose for your animal? Grizzly bears and wolves have overlapping ranges. A grizzly could certainly kill a wolf if it could catch one, and grizzlys can sprint reasonably fast for a short distance. Think about why they don't. Now consider that your animal is considerably bigger, and therefore less agile, than a grizzly bear.

Finally, I didn't ask if my creature was possible to begin with, my question was about hiding such an animal at certain ranges.

It's rather difficult to posit what the hiding strategy might be of a creature that can't exist.

3 comments

3000kg is huge, but that's no where near the largest size a terrestrial carnivore ever, T Rex by comparison was 8000kg to 15000kg, and much more comparable in mass to it's own prey, being even larger than some (Edmonosaurus was 9000kg for example), heck, my Giant Hyena even shares some of the same characteristics of T-Rex (highly developed smell, crushing instead of slicing teeth). Additionally, the largest mammalian terrestrial carnivore was around 1500kg. ‭Cazadorro‭ 2 months ago

Additionally the animal I propose is not fast and agile, and like other large animals carnivores and other animals, like bears, would rely on sprinting for short distances, shorter distances than other carnivores, hence why I said it needed to be so close to pick prey off and get just enough distance that it wouldn't be. They would work a lot like large rhinos do when sprinting. ‭Cazadorro‭ 2 months ago

Finally, I didn't ask if my creature was possible to begin with, my question was about hiding such an animal at certain ranges. I even specified it's hiding strategy didn't need to work 100% of the time (or even 10% apparently!), and that environmental changes could be part of what makes it work. ‭Cazadorro‭ 2 months ago

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