The secret, spotted hyenas of UC Berkeley



One of many things I hated about that movie is the hyenas got a bad rap. Their slice of the Circle of Life had been taken away from them, and they were fully justified in taking it back.

I understand Peter Benchley has said that if he knew then what he knows now about sharks he never would have written Jaws. I think he was writing at a time when even scientists didn’t have a great understanding of sharks.

Disney has no such excuse.


Oddly, there was one good outcome of that movie for our family, and it was in regard to hyenas. One of my children for some inexplicable reason had zeroed in on hyenas as an animal she really liked. She was young enough at the time that family friends searched in vain to find a toy representation, maybe a stuffed animal or a figurine. No luck, even searching internationally. And then “The Lion King” was released, and they produced a stuffed hyena as one of the many branded items available in their stores. She still has that hyena.

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We used to occasionally jump the fence at night. Before I saw them I had heard their cries while walking at night. It was quite surreal. I didn’t know it had been shut down. Sad to hear. One more weird thing about Berkeley gone. I wonder if they’ve put locks on all the steam tunnel access grates.


When I interviewed at Berkeley for grad school (psychology department), they took us all to visit the hyena colony. It seemed a bit unusual at the time, since I don’t know how many of us were actually interested in studying animal psychology, but it was a very cool trip. I also learned way more than I ever wanted to know about hyena mating.

I’m sorry to hear that the colony is being shut down. I’ve known about it for years, though I never had a chance to visit. I’ve always wanted to - hyenas are the coolest things that ever cooled.

I’ve always given a hearty “Go Bears” to the hyenas I’ve seen in zoos on the likelihood that they’re from Cal. I guess I’ll have to do it louder now.


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