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Abstract

In contrast to most other carnivores, spotted hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) do not regularly carry food back to their dens for provisioning of dependent young. Kruuk (1976) and Mills (1989) hypothesized that high levels of competition for provisioned food at the communal dens utilized by spotted hyenas may have selected against provisioning behavior in this species. We observed lactating female spotted hyenas carry food from ungulate kills to their dependent cubs at the den 18 times, and share food with their dependent cubs at kills 33 times. We used these data to test the Kruuk/Mills hypothesis by assessing effects of feeding competition on provisioning behavior. Provisioning rates were low, and were correlated with social rank. Provisioning attempts were often unsuccessful. Females dominant to the provisioner, with cubs also residing at the communal den, were the most effective competitors for provisioned food. Attempts to share food with cubs at kills were more successful than were attempts to provision cubs at the den. Our data thus support the Kruuk/Mills hypothesis.