South Carolina’s Striped Hyena

Posted by: Loren Coleman on March 13th, 2009

Cryptid Hyenas in America?

Hyena-like cryptids have been reported in the USA.

There is the 1910 case from Delphos, Kansas.

More recently there was the intriguing video footage from Mississippi:

Tim McCary of Mississippi exclusively shared the video with Cryptomundo. The creature caught with his game video cam was photographed in the fall of 2007, in southwest Mississippi. Specifically, it was taken in a place called “Anna’s Bottom,” just north of Natchez, Mississippi. This will give you a sense of how some have said that this cryptid could be a Spotted Hyena (genus Crocuta).

For comparative purposes, below is footage of a hyena running in Africa. (People often make the mistake of thinking hyenas have stubbed tails; they do not but they do hold them close to their bodies so their tails appear to be shorter than they are. Of course, other animals running could resemble hyenas, needless to say.)


South Carolina’s “Bubbles” case

Today, I must deliver to you the news that a striped hyena has been found in South Carolina. Shockingly, it was not discovered in the wild or in a zoo, but in a man’s backyard.

Of course, the widespread private ownership of exotic pets is out-of-hand, dangerous, and problematic. For cryptozoologists, out-of-place animals need to be tracked so confusion with owned animals and reported escapees can be understood with some reality. Nevertheless, sometimes the unbelievable does seem to pop into the news, regarding exotics.

A local story from South Carolina informs us that a man has been cited for keeping a striped hyena in his yard. Add to this the fact authorities state that hyenas have also been found as pets in Florida and Texas.

Striped Hyenas, naturally

The Striped Hyena (Hyaena hyaena) is normally found in Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan and western India, not South Carolina, USA.

They do not grow up to make good pets.

Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the striped hyenas’ attacks on humans:

“The striped hyena was historically feared and held responsible for the disappearance of unattended small children in the Caucasus and in Central Asia. In the district of Yerevan in the Caucasus in the 1880s, hyenas were thought to be responsible for the disappearance or injuring of 25 children and three adults who slept outdoors. Further incidents in that area of striped hyenas killing children were reported in the 1890s and 1900s, as well as in Azerbaidjan in the 1930s and 1940s.

“In British India, striped hyena attacks rarely caused much uproar, as they were not considered as dangerous as wolves, which were responsible for numerous deaths in the latter half of the 19th century. In modern India however, killings of wolves and striped hyenas are still organised by the government in areas where carnivores are suspected of child lifting, even in conservation areas.

“In 1962, nine children were thought to have been taken by hyenas in the town of Bhagalpur in the Bihar State in a six week period. In Karnataka, Bihar state, attacks on children have been reported as recently as 1974 when 19 children up to the age of four years were reported killed at night.

“On March 13th 2005, a hyena injured 70 persons in six villages of Sonsor tehsil, five of them critically.

“The Kikuyu of Kenya generally do not fear striped hyenas as they do spotted hyenas. A consensus on wild animal attacks during a five year period in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh showed that hyenas had only attacked three people, the lowest figure when compared to deaths caused by wolves, gaur, boar, elephants, tigers, leopards and sloth bears.”

Giving an animal a cute and cuddly name like “Bubbles” does not make it any less dangerous.

You could say this is no laughing matter.

An uncritical SC retelling

Editorially, I must take objection to the ending tone of the following article. It turns into an ad for the private ownership of hyenas, which frankly I think is a remarkably unwise decision on anyone’s part.

Myrtle Beach resident Nicolas Petock said Thursday that he misses his friend.

The 26-year-old’s striped hyena named Bubbles was taken last Friday [March 6, 2009] by Myrtle Beach police.

“It’s very detrimental to our relationship with him,” said Petock, who had the nearly 1-year-old hyena for about six months. “Even as young as he is, it’s hard for him to trust people,” said Petock, who gave Bubbles his name because “as a pup, when he got nervous, he made a bubbling noise.”

Police cited Petock for owning and displaying a wild exotic animal after officers went to his home at 602 First Ave. S. last Friday and saw the hyena, police said.

A court hearing is scheduled for Petock on April 7, according to clerks at the Myrtle Beach Municipal Court.

According to Myrtle Beach’s city ordinances, it is “unlawful for any person to sell, expose to public view or contact, exhibit either gratuitously or for a fee, any wild or feral animals, or any animal of mixed domestication and feral lineage within the corporate limits of the city on public or private property,” unless otherwise stated in the ordinance.

Petock, who brought Bubbles from Texas, said before coming to South Carolina, he researched the laws regarding having a wild, exotic animal such as a hyena.

“We weren’t trying to sell him,” said Petock, who wanted the hyena because he said they are very unappreciated animals. “He is a member of the family.”

A police officer saw the hyena in a fenced enclosure in the rear of the home and contacted Petock about it, according to a police report. Police said it was housed in a fenced area large enough to allow the hyena to move in a circle around a dog house, the report stated.

Ken Alfieri, one of the curators at Alligator Adventure, said Petock’s backyard was probably the wrong location to have a hyena.

“I’m not against ownership,” Alfieri said. “It is better just to be outside of city limits where you have a lot of space. The rule with exotic animals is to have two fences, doubled-fence and closed-fence, as you are better able to control access to your animal.”

Alfieri, who said Bubbles was taken to a large enclosure 3½ hours away from Myrtle Beach, said it is the first case of anyone having a hyena that he has seen in South Carolina. He has seen cases in Florida and Texas, he said.

“The striped hyena is different than some of the hyenas we see on the Discovery Channel,” Alfieri said. “They are middle-sized hyenas that generally are reasonably nice animals. They do bond with people, and they do well in captivity. They are both loyal and bonded to their owners.

“The spotted hyena and the brown hyena can be bigger,” Alfieri said. “They [travel in] a pack, are true meat eaters and predators, while the striped hyena is mid-size, a loner, typically shy and will eat as much fruit and vegetables as it does meat.”

Petock described Bubbles, native to West Africa, as a loner.

“You have to gain the trust of a striped hyena more than you do of a spotted one,” said Petock, who also has a couple of dogs and cats. He said it is a distress to have Bubbles separated from all of them.Fri, Mar. 13, 2009 “Hearing date set for hyena owner, Bubbles” by Janelle Frost,
Sun News
, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Thanks for the heads up on this incident from Regan Lee.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

14 Responses to “South Carolina’s Striped Hyena”

  1. kittenz responds:

    I don’t think that the animal in the video looks like a spotted hyena. It looks more like a deer or a goat.

    I know that some people keep them as pets, but I think that’s a bad idea. Hyenas are not dogs. They have different social and biological requirements and I just don’t think that those requirements can be met successfully in a human household.

  2. theprof responds:

    Well, although I specialise in Canids and Felids one of my favourite animals are the hyaena. They are smart and CAN be trained like a dog and even do tricks like a dog.

    I’ve looked at escapes, captures and much more regarding hyaena in the past to present. To me this LOOKS like a hyaena but to say which of the three we’d need much, much clearer footage.

    Honestly, I’m not surprised and I’d guess most people will not be, if this is proven 100% hyaena.

  3. WeeBeastie responds:

    Footage definitely does not look like a deer or goat; note the hump at the shoulder of the animal. Unless it was a deformed or injured deer or goat…also the neck is too short to be a deer, and too thick to be a goat.

    First a zebra, now a hyena. When will people learn to leave the wild things where they belong?

  4. shumway10973 responds:

    I would say hyena. The round belly (meaning well fed), long neck drooped downward with descent sized head and what looks like a mane with the hind quarters lower than the front…I would have to say that is a hyena. What I don’t know for sure is this really Mississippi? The footage looks very much like the special night footage from Nature (the pbs show) or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. This thing could have been filmed in Africa (or where ever the spotted hyena is suppose to be) and this guy pulled it off the internet or recorded it off tv and then burned it to dvd and then put it on his computer. I didn’t see anything that says Mississippi, let alone North America.

  5. Breck responds:

    To me it looks like a great dane with his head down sniffing the ground as he walks.

  6. cryptidsrus responds:


    Another out-of-place animal to frighten the you-know-what out of people.

    Pardon me if I ”laugh” at this.
    Yep, irresponsibility is an innate human characteristic…

  7. Quakerhead responds:

    A hyena makes as good of a pet as a chimpanzee. And most of us, by now, are aware of what delightful house pets THEY make. If this is a hyena, (and I wouldn’t be surprised), it had to be an escaped/released pet. When are people going to learn that no matter how young a wild animal is when they obtain them, they will always be a wild animal. You may tame them down to a certain extent, but they’re still wild and one day you’re explaining to the police why your lovable pet ate the neighbors child.

  8. coelacanth1938 responds:

    It’s a hyena. I’ve seen enough hyena footage taken at night, courtesy of the National Geographic, to recognise the gait of the beasties.
    I have to agree with shumway10973 that this might not be Mississippi we’re looking at.
    And lastly, considering all the dogs and cats and horses that need homes, it’s criminal to take a wild animal out of it’s habitat and try and make it a pet.

  9. Loren Coleman responds:

    Striped hyena range map added:

  10. kolobe responds:

    That is definitely a hyena. seen enough off them to recognise the way it walks. Looks more like a the bigger sub specie, the spotted hyena.

    They may be trainable, but hey they are also responsible for a lot of human deaths in Africa. If you want one as a pet, you’re crazy. These things have often taken people out of their tents etc when camping. In rural Limpopo South Africa, there was recently a case of a Hyena taking small children, albeit an old male hyena. These are very dangerous animals.

  11. norman-uk responds:

    Seems a bit strange wanting to keep a smelly, dangerous animal in your backyard, do they scent mark?

    It does mean you can’t have your grandchildren visit! A sweet natured lurcher any day in preference!

    I prefer to think the photo is of a Shunka Warak’in, in fact it looks like it to me and isnt there a suspicion of a long tail?

    There are some interesting pics on cryptomundo elswhere which may have some bearing apart from those of the Shunka Warak’in and its possibly stuffed example, i.e. at-C2C cryptic canid re Milwaukee river canid and amazing Nebraska cryptic photos. These two look like the same animal. I think I can see faint stripes on both.

    Have DNA or hair tests been completed on the possible stuffed Shunka Warak’in? I am not too confident about the results of DNA testing as even something new would likely to be written off as canid and one you start looking into DNA you realise there is a lot of uncharted water and room for uncertainty.

  12. kittenz responds:

    I saw an article, a few months ago, about a “mystery animal” that had attacked several dozen pople in India. There was uncertainty as to the animal’s identity; some said it was dog-like, others said it was a leopard, but most seem to think it was a hyena.

    I have checked online from time to time to try to find an update, or any additional information, with no success.

    If the animal was a hyena, it was surely a striped hyena, since that species lives in India. Hyena attacks on people are very common in parts of Africa; however almost all of those attacks are by spotted hyenas, Crocuta crocuta, which are bigger and much more aggressive than the striped hyenas.

    Here is an interesting photo of a striped hyena threat display.

    Note how short the face appears, when the lips are pulled into a snarl, and how prominent the teeth are. That, together with the fact that striped hyenas can appear to double suddenly in size, by erecting their manes (the long hairs of which usually lie flat) make me wonder whether striped hyenas could be the source of some historic legends of shapeshifters and werewolves. Coming upon one suddenly in a forest thicket, and seeing that face with a body appearing to suddenly grow huge, would certainly leave an impression.

    Also, I found this story, with photos, while I was looking for an update on the hyena attacks in Nigeria. This is not a recent article; I believe most of the photos were shot from about 2005 to 2007, but it’s an interesting but disturbing portrait of humans’ interaction with hyenas and other wildlife. Here’s the link to the photos and articles, by Pieter Hugo: ‘Gadawan Kura’ – The Hyena Men ”

    I can’t vouch for the authenticity of the photos, since they all appear to have some degree of hand-tinting, but they look genuine, aside from that.

  13. pumpkinlettuce responds:

    Oh great, just what I needed—something ELSE to look over my shoulder for. I’ll never live a peaceful life 🙁

  14. GCPickle responds:

    Very interesting comments all. 🙂

    The above link to the “Gadawan-Kura” Hyena Men was disturbing to me. I can’t really describe what it is I’m feeling after reading the article and seeing those pictures; I think it’s a combination of disgust at the exploitation of those wild creatures and sorrow, for the whole situation. What a horrible existence for them all, men included.

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