Yes, lions steal from hyenas and vice versa sometimes depending on the numbers. For example H. Kruuk, in his work: The spotted hyena: A study of predation and social behavior – 1990 – University of Chicago Press, reported on two steals as follows:
- Two male lions stole a wildebeest from 25 hyenas;
- Three young male lions with two lionesses stole an eland kill from 21 hyenas. However, when there was only one lion left feeding the odds changed and the hyenas charged in and the male trotted off to join the pride.
Also sometimes lions back off as in a non-feeding situation when a mob of 18 hyenas forced two lions to climb a tree to escape (H Kruuk).
Lions are stronger than hyenas and considerably larger. I remember the story of a male lion breaking a hyena’s back with one bite (see photo). That was the end of the hyena. But when the numbers are in the hyenas’ favour, lions understand that the odds are stacked against them.
Lions eat very fast to avoid the theft of their kills. One scientist, Schaller, wrote, “lions bolt meat so rapidly that if many are present only the skeleton of a zebra may be left after 30 minutes.”
If the kill can be consumed in one hour it is not moved. Lions start eating without ceremony and tends not to move kills to safe places as can be the case with leopards and tigers who often move kills lengthy distances.
Lions and hyenas compete for resources. National Geographic calls them ‘mortal enemies’. The have the same distribution and hunt the same prey and scavenge the same carcasses.