Hyena on South Beach

It's a fiendishly muggy afternoon when Bryan Hawn leads a visitor through a two-acre, lushly landscaped estate in the Redland. Dressed in sneakers, khaki cargo shorts, and a tight gray tee, he walks to a chainlink pen where his pet Jake resides. The critter's fuzzy brown tail points up as his 27-year-old master opens the gate.

"He's excited," Hawn explains. "He's on alert." Jake lets out a guttural growl as his owner walks into the cage. "Hi, baby," Hawn coos. "How are you, sweetie?" Jake rubs his wet black snout against Hawn's square chin before pacing in a circle.

"You can't eat your tail, silly," Hawn says playfully before letting his massive, hairy friend out of the pen and into a grassy yard. He chases Jake and then carries him to a small dirt patch, where they roll around some more.

Bryan Hawn and Jake the hyena
Bryan Hawn and Jake the hyena

Location Info

Map

The Miami-Dade Zoological Park and Gardens

12400 SW 152 St.
Perrine, FL 33177

Category: Attractions and Amusement Parks

Region: South Dade

Jake is neither a dog nor any other member of the canine family. He's a predator — a fully grown African spotted hyena, a breed that "kill[s] by running down prey until it becomes exhausted — usually choosing lame or young antelope and zebra," acccording to wildwatch.com.

And the story of this animal and his master is no Lassie. Hawn spent two weeks stripping in Fort Lauderdale to earn the money to buy the vicious creature with deep, icy-black eyes and razor-sharp fangs. He kept it illegally in an apartment for 11 months until it began making a commotion by bouncing off walls. And, after giving away the animal, he was so affected by the experience that he took a job at Zoo Miami. "My relationship with Jake is absolutely priceless," Hawn says. "When you develop a bond with animals, you realize they are just like people."

Hawn grew up in an affluent Atlanta household, the second of four children. His mom Chelle, a chief financial officer for a kids' golf-club manufacturer called Acculength, owns a 10,000-square-foot "Greek revival" mansion she purchased for $1.6 million in 2003, according to an article in the Atlanta Constitution-Journal.

He had his first brush with fame at age 21, when he, his mother, and his siblings appeared on an ABC TV pilot called Vacation Swap, a spinoff of the hit reality series Wife Swap. Cameras followed the Hawn clan as they took a middle-class family on a ski trip to Aspen, where they stayed at the $10,000-a-day Sardy House.

The family owned three dogs throughout Hawn's childhood and teenage years, but he didn't play with them. "They were very boring to me," he says. "I was interested in unique animals."

In elementary school, he was obsessed with exotic creatures, says his mom: "Bryan even made his own encyclopedia, adding a new paragraph for each new animal he researched, from ocean mammals to terrestrial lizards to insects."

When Hawn was in middle school, his interest in animals was replaced by cross country and track and field. "Bryan is 100 percent relentless," his mom admits. "When he gets his mind set on something you don't try to talk him out of it."

In 2003, a year after graduating from high school, Hawn moved to Los Angeles to pursue a singing career. He supported himself working as a personal trainer and an underwear model. A handsome, muscular guy, he isn't shy about using his good looks to get exposure. On January 1, 2007, he posed in his underwear for a website called Hunk du Jour and described his favorite body part as "definitely my ass."

A year later, Hawn migrated to Miami Beach, where he moved into a one-bedroom apartment on the eighth floor of a South Beach building. He continued singing, even winning a talent competition on a show called Minuto de Fama on América TeVé in 2010, the same year he broke up with a boyfriend.

Lonely and hurt, Hawn began thinking of getting a furry companion. "Animals are a great source of unconditional love," he says. "But I didn't want a dog. I wanted something on a huge scale and that would make people's mouths drop open."

On the Internet he discovered animal brokers selling foxes, kangaroos, and anteaters. "It came down to a wolf or a hyena," Hawn says. "The more I thought about it, if I could get a hyena to love me, I could prove to myself that I am a lovable person."

But when he inquired with an animal broker (whom he declined to name) in January last year, there was a glitch. The broker found a private zoo in New Jersey that was selling two baby spotted hyenas for $5,000 each. "I only had a 100 bucks to my name," Hawn asserts. "And I had 14 days to come up with the cash."

That led to a job at the Boardwalk, a gay strip club in Fort Lauderdale. "I worked every single day for two weeks from 5 in the afternoon until 2 in the morning. I averaged about $400 a night."

He eventually collected $5,286, enough for the hyena and his gas expenses for the 48-hour round trip to New Jersey. "I brought two loaves of bread, some jelly, and water because I had no money for food," he says.

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91 comments
tipyofnyc19771
tipyofnyc19771

You did a beautiful thing by raising Jake. You most likely save his life by obtaining him. You did what your heart desired. Many blessings to you and Jake. I hope you and him are both well.

alicedroxon
alicedroxon

good job raising jake who cares what other people think 

Designstar9
Designstar9

A man who dances in underwear ..wnts a hyena...drives to new jersey and keeps it his apt...finds his love thru hyena...this is too sick...ive told my friends about this and noone will believe me......

Designstar9
Designstar9

Saw the show..he should be kept away from animals...this person needs alot of nuturing animal education...w all the exotic animals caged in apts in this world...like keeping a human locked in the bathrooom...how could someone think this would work..even a dog needs space..the part about the animals self abuse was sad.. tmuch..we dont any more of this.

Pete Stergoui
Pete Stergoui

This article is a poorly written representation of the situation. Bryan has been a good friend of mine for 4 years... so I had first hand witnessing to the entire story from start to finish. The guy who wrote the story make it sound like he got the hyena just to get attention. Nothing could be further from the truth. If you want to hear the real story... you need to get the autobiography written by Bryan himself.Here's a link to the real story: It will make you laugh... it will make you cry, and it will inspire you to make your own dreams a reality.

http://www.lulu.com/product/eb...

Before forming an opinion... make sure you see the videos on youtube. The amount of love between this animal and human being is overwhelming.Your amazing Bryan!Your friend,Pete

Nycsean10014
Nycsean10014

While a love of animals and wildlife is wonderful, Mr. Hawn is really begging for trouble. A Hyena is a wild animal, and wild animals cannot be "tamed." I go to Africa almost every year on Safari, so I am familiar with this predator. One day, he will eventually attack his owner. Something will set him off, for some reason, and his primitive instinctual behavior will appear. I think anyone's love of animals should be satisfied by living with a domesticated animal/pet, like a dog, cat, horse, etc. I am a Bloodhound man myself, but I love almost all dogs. Even a dog can be aggressive, but that is almost always an indication of an abused past, or some mistreatment by humans. But any wild animal, be it wolf, lion, elephant, or hyena, should never be kept by a person. Even if the animal was raised from near infancy--and we're all familiar with folks who've owned a lion cub, or other exotic animals--eventually his inherent instinctive behavior is likely to manifest itself, and extremely serious injury may result.

Henry Tazer
Henry Tazer

Never in my life could I imagine having a hyena on south beach

You think about everyone bragging about their Doberman or pitbull or Rotweiller... And your like, "Bitch, I got a hyena" Lmao!!

anonymous
anonymous

Plain and simple: Selfish and ignorant.

Mike
Mike

This is something I should keep my mouth shut about, but based on the comments below, (and the general lack of knowledge about the animal care industry) I can't keep quiet. I've though on this long and hard. I was a zookeeper for over a decade, most of it in Miami. Zookeeping is not a glamorous job. It is dangerous, backbreaking work that doesn't pay well. Most people entering the profession have grown up caring for animals, either by continuing to bring home critters after mom said not to, or being raised around them on farms and the like.

While many animal caretakers go to school, even more get jobs or volunteer at vet clinics and shelters as teenagers. For the great majority of my coworkers, and myself, the choice of animal caretaker as a profession was not lighthearted one. In 2011, there are still too many customers who think of zookeepers as being unable to hold down a "normal job"; many people think exactly what this kid has shown them: that zoo animals are pets that the keepers play with all day.

I will give him that small modicum of respect for turning the hyena in, but his selfishness trumps that. What he did is illegal and extremely ill-advised. There's a reason people who truly care about animals don't commit fraud to purchase an apex predator as a status symbol. There is nothing "impressive" or "awe-inspiring" about buying an exotic animal because he was hurting from a break-up. He shouldn't be "commended" for risking the safety of his friends and neighbors so that he could work on his self esteem issues to prove he was "lovable".

Had he cared about animals and the environment, he would have done the research and discovered that there are several schools throughout the country that train people as animal caretakers. There is no reason would have had to choose between animals and track & field. There was nothing stopping him from getting any number of degrees pertaining to biology or environmental science. My impression of him is marred by his tv show background and upcoming Nat Geo segment. If he wanted to stay in show business, there are schools who teach one how to train animals. The pursuit of fame seems to be the main focus. Some cuts and a broken arm means he got off extremely lucky for having made this "beautiful mistake."

My reaction to this article isn't a case of elitism over someone having a Horatio Alger experience. I think being a zookeeper was the best thing that ever happened to me, but it's suck job. As I said, it's backbreaking work. I won't even mention the risks attendant on spending everyday with dangerous animals. People risk their health and their lives everyday doing extremely physically (often mentally) exhausting labor in every type of weather imaginable. For the people complaining about not having air conditioning during Hurricane Katrina, you should be aware that that is a typical day working as a Miami Keeper. Hot sun, freezing rain, blizzards. If the animals are experiencing it, there's a good chance the keepers are, too. Hours are spent bent over a rake and shovel, carrying heavy wheelbarrows, scrubbing floors, cutting brush, landscaping, carrying hay bales... every day. That doesn't even include feeding and making sure the animals are healthy, and challenged mentally. I wished more people chose careers in science or education. I've told this to many people, and most of them understood where I came from: I wouldn't recommend it, but I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

There is a direct correlation between the environment and the economy. When people can afford food and shelter, they begin to care more about their surroundings. When they lose their jobs, they have to let their pets go because they can't feed them. Why should they care about stray dogs, or rhino horns, when they can't feed themselves? Poaching is on the rise again. That means impotent businessmen are paying top dollar for aphrodisiacs. Canned hunts occur even in the United States, because somebody is willing to pay for them. Not every animal breeder has a license, and based on this article, not all of them double-check the credentials of their client. Hawn's desperation to validate himself just means that the cycle of supply and demand takes another turn.

Thankfully there is no way to outsource animal care, except to get rid of the animals altogether. Zoos and animal shelters across the country are also affected by the current economy. Unless they have a Disney or Busch behind them, caring for animals means running their ledgers in the red. The animals literally crap the profits away. Their budgets are up for review, and since public sector employees (cops, teachers, clerks, sewer workers, road crews, firemen, etc...) are being blamed for the Recession, it's only to be expected that the animals will lose out also.

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Wate of time on a stupid article written by an unknown dumbass about another dumbass. sign off..............

joe
joe

Why is it that white guys always think they have this special connection with wild animals??? That's why all "When Wild Animals Attack" videos have caucasians in it!

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Wow!! What is so god damned amazing about this? He throws a stick and the dumb animal runs to it and smells it. He beckons the animal and it comes to him. Of fucking course!! He raised and fed the damned animal since it was a pup. So what? You bunch of dum asses!!! Where's the story here? I think this story will get him canned, arrested and fined.

Teresa
Teresa

Kudos for having the courage to let him go to another home. Kudos for the commitment of not just releasing this animal to wonder the everglades.

Carlos
Carlos

What a fucking moron! He lives in the Redlands and let's this savage beast loose?? The Fish and Wildlife commission should arrest and fine this idiot. He should get fired for giving his employee false information and keeping this fucking beast illegally. I dont care how "good" he is, he's still a fucking moron.

Randy Zander
Randy Zander

Omg!! This guy is crazy. Lol

Talk about living on the edge...

That takes some serious balls to raise an African Spotted Hyena

Fierce!

Deadheaven
Deadheaven

This guy should be ashamed of himself for participating in the illegal trafficking of exotics. Shame on the zoo for condoning his actions. Now every moron in Miami's going to scrounge up a few bucks and buy something they shouldn't keep as a pet.

Bridgett Delaney
Bridgett Delaney

That picture is amazing. They hyena is huge, and for him to be that up close and personal and it being full grown... wow!

Elg6601
Elg6601

Pete i saw this post and then i looked and you were on the tv weird hahaha

Stacie Rogers
Stacie Rogers

Obviously they can be tamed you moron... did you not see the videos?enough with your coulda, shoulda, woulda, someday, one day bullshit. The fact is: What you are witnessing is the reality.

Yes, usually wild animals can be very aggressive, especially hyenas, but this one isn't... so why don't you just call a spade a spade.

The hyena clearly loves the guy... if you took the time to watch the video... so until you get notified otherwise... shut it!

A note to Bryan: Your a genius... congrats on doing the impossible

Fabian Lorenzo
Fabian Lorenzo

You are an assholePlease don't ever talk in public about zookeeping againWe zookeepers do it cause we love it

If you want to complain, go do somethingElse u miserable fuck

Mike
Mike

Statistically speaking, young white males 17-25 have the highest rate of incidents when it comes to receiving wounds (fatal or not) from an exotic animal. For the ten year period ending in 2001, per the CDC, white males accounted for 91% of all animal fatalities. Typically these events occur when the young man is attempting show off the animal in a moment of bravado to his friends or romantic interest. In the age of the Flip Cam, we just get to see it more often now.

Joseph Myrtle
Joseph Myrtle

You are a moron... He already turned himself in you retard.

Why dont you take a trip to the zoo and ask the zoo keepers if they go in the enclosure with their hyenas.

And then ask them why?

And maybe u can educate yourself before annoying the world with your obnoxious comments.

And then u will also get a clue on why it's amazing!

Van Rocker
Van Rocker

Because it's a hyena you dumbass!Documentaries have stated that they can't be tamed.

It's not a dog... Wake the fuck up

That is what is so God damn amazing!Some people should be prohibited from speaking from torturing the world with their stupidity... I swearKudos for raising a hyena... U rock dude

Alvarado1
Alvarado1

No dumbass. If you read the story carefully you would see the hyena is kept at a wildlife commission sanctioned refuge and the hyena is kept in a chain-linked enclosure. It is not running loose you tool bag.

Mike
Mike

That's already a reality. Miami is one of the largest entrees for the illegal animal trade. As a keeper, I had a couple serious questions every year about where to buy this or that exotic animal. Most people are deterred by the information that there will be crap all over their home, some are put off by the paperwork or the fact that they would contribute to the loss of biodiversity / physical abuse of smuggled animals. But there were always a couple people who only stopped asking when I stressed the illegality of obtaining an animal on the black market.

BenJohnson
BenJohnson

Your name says it all dead heaven... Lol

A life of shame is no way to live. You don't kick people when they are down, you reach out your hand and help them.

The guy has a passion for animals and is clearly talented... He raised a frickin hyena!

So I love that the zoo hired him... Now he can live his passion in the right conditions :)

Michelle Salvadore
Michelle Salvadore

I found the Miami NewTimes interview on YouTube and I am officially in love with Bryan Hawn!

His interaction with Jake was breathtaking! Pure awesomeness!

Designstar9
Designstar9

PO please...ask the hyena..how he feels about his life...oh wait...lets lock a human in unatural conditions...fight back release the shackles and call the owner a hero..

Mike
Mike

Fabian-

I don't know how you missed the first paragraph where I said I spent most of my career as a zookeeper, or the other sentences where I said it was the best thing I've done, and that I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

It might behoove to read each sentence again, and tell me I'm not standing up for the profession. If you are a keeper, tell me you don't run into people who show you the attitudes I've described.

In fact, I almost never see anyone defending the job against the likes of Bryan Fischer or PETA; who think either that animals who attack should be euthanized, or that keepers deserve to be attacked. Unless a member of the general public goes to an industry website, they don't know what the job entails.

Or do you never encounter those who think that Kevin James' new movie holds a modicum of truth: when the public goes home, the keepers all flop down and watch TV with their charges?

I'm complaining because this kid illegally purchased a wild animal because he has self-esteem issues and wants to be on television. He not only kept the animal in an inappropriate environment, but endangered the people in his life. His arm was broken trying to crate it, which he only did after complaints about the noise.

You say you love your profession. Is this kind of behavior acceptable to you? Are you seriously defending him?

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Yep. Them Blacks and Latinos know better than to fuck around with dangerous beasts. Smart if you ask me.

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Joseph, find a cock and rotate on it you fuckwad!! He kept a dangerous wild animal in an apartment you dumb fuck. Then in a yard in the Redlands. What part of stupid dumb fuck do yo not understand? Oh, I know why. YOU are also a dumbfuck. MORON!!

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Maricon de playa, he kept it in an apartment. Or did you not read what you supposedly wrote? Where'd you go to school?? Walmart Correspondence School of Journalism?

Carlos
Carlos

Ben, say this fucking moron lived next door to you and you have children playing in your back yard, would you be ok with him letting this wild animal loose? If your answer is anything but hell no, you too are a fucking moron.

Paparazzi
Paparazzi

@Bryan HawnWell, its been well over TWO years since this story ran on May 26 2011 and goes to show to prove MOST of the negatives as "wrong" since you're still around and so is Jake. Everyone is entitled and responsible for their own situations because this is still the land we love called AMERICA and no "right or wrong" will be the solution because time has now PROVED ITSELF to be in YOUR favor. Best Wishes your way. Glad you got my recent youtube message few days ago (paparazzi)

alicedroxon
alicedroxon

@Bryan Hawn  good job raising jake screw what other people think dam animal haters

alicedroxon
alicedroxon

@Bryan Hawn  good job raising jake im an animal lover and you did a great job 

TheCow
TheCow

@Bryan Hawn You're an idiot and are going to end up as hyena food.

Designstar9
Designstar9

I agree....this was another example of animal abuse from the seller to the buyer...point is the hyena didnt need to bond in a love relationship...he didnt seek yo be a human experiment.hes not telling himself hey I did something great...i lived in a small apt snd I didnt eat this guy...

anonymous
anonymous

yeah, I don't find this story cute or inspiring at all, you bought a living creature, tortured it by making it live in your apartment, deprived it from companions, proper exercise and more then gave it away cause you couldn't handle it. My mother did the same to me she stupidly gave birth to me at age 16 because she thought it was a great idea, raised me in several horrible situations where I ended terribly neglected and abused and then when it became to much of a chore gave me to foster care. oh but don't worry I love her and she loves me and she visits me all the time.

anonymous
anonymous

yeah, I don't find this story cute or inspiring at all, you bought a living creature, tortured it by making it live in your apartment, deprived it from companions, proper exercise and more then gave it away cause you couldn't handle it. My mother did the same to me she stupidly gave birth to me at age 16 because she thought it was a great idea, raised me in several horrible situations where I ended terribly neglected and abused and then when it became to much of a chore gave me to foster care. oh but don't worry I love her and she loves me and she visits me all the time.

Mike
Mike

Fine. You're right.

You have every reason to be proud of keeping a wild animal in an inappropriate environment, and having to pay money to fix your mistake. Your life must be *so* difficult, because you had to find a "proper facility" after months of living in your high rise South Beach apartment- which you've since had to give up and live in South Dade. I'm so happy you validated yourself after a relationship imploded. Predators are an excellent trade-in for human affection. Because Jake "LOVES YOU". That makes it all worth it.

I'm so happy you had so much love for an animal you broke the law to raise it in an apartment, without others of its species; when you could have spent the same amount of money to raise awareness for its CITES status; or increase research by going to school for them; or for enrichment for the animals that are already being cared for by those who sought a career in the industry.

Your experiences in raising the hyena are definitely invaluable in terms of animal care, because now there is another animal who hasn't been exposed to the social cues of its conspecifics. Now there is another captive animal that costs extra in resources for management. Are you willing to make this a lifetime commitment? If you can't keep spending time with it, are you willing to spend the money to offset the care required for the remainder of its life?

Way to go, thinking keepers don't understand what is required to take care of an exotic animal, and have to deal with not only the daily maintenance, but also decisions regarding its mental and physical health. Taking care of more than one animal at a time certainly means they never have the same quality of experience as you.

Thank you so much for making it look easy. You knew it wasn't a suitable pet, yet you committed fraud to buy it anyway. There aren't nearly enough people out there who think raising exotic animals is something anybody can do. There aren't nearly enough stray domestic animals in South Florida that people are unwilling to care for, or worse, simply don't want anymore. I can't wait to see how many more people than usual are inspired by your anthropomorphic declarations of "love conquers all" and wind up trying to get rid of something they can't handle.

Bryan Hawn
Bryan Hawn

Dear Mike,I understand your frustration. If I came to those conclusions... I probably wouldn't be very fond of someone either, but if I may speak for myself.I purchased the animal because I've had a passion for animals my entire life, and it has been an absolute dream raising this hyena. He is single handedly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don't know if you have had a chance to watch my youtube videos. But I wouldn't have lasted a week raising this animal if I was just some idiot that wanted a hyena to be cool, nor would I have established the bond that we have. I dare any zookeeper to try and establish the bond that I have with Jake and see how far they get. Understanding the animal intellectually, emotionally, and having the strength to maintain dominance is imperative... You try wrestling a 150 pound animal every day to stay Alpha and you will have no choice but to have respect for what has been accomplished.Until then, you are in no place to comment, especially with such negativity.If everything you said was true... I would have been eaten

The relationship I have have with Jake did not stem from a desire for TV, it stemmed from truly loving this animal with all of my heart, and altering my entire life to continue to care for him. I moved out of a beautiful apartment high rise down to the everglades just to be close to him every day. That is no pursuit of fame sir.

I crated him and took him to a proper facility because I loved him and wanted the best for him, not because of noise complaint

You are not even aware of what I had to go through to find a proper facility. The three biggest zoos in South Florida turned Jake away... they said hyenas are too aggressive and expensive due to their appetite. The only reason he has a place is because, I donated 2,500 dollars to ZWF to build him an enclosure...There was no way out... no body had room for him. I had to create an option that didn't exist!

I never came to National Geographic or the Miami new Times or Animal Planet...I could care less about Jake being on TV. They came to me. But I don't mind sharing the beautiful relationship that I have with Jake because I think its amazing the miracles that love can create. The only reason Jake doesn't eat me is because of the overwhelming amount of love that is given to him unconditionally and consistently, and that is the true story that never got told in this article. Your right! hyenas are not suppose to be pets... They make HORRIBLE pets... what somebody has to go through raising one in unbearable,...LOVE is the miracle that created a connection with a human and a wild animal. Documentaries have stated that hyenas cannot be tamed. That is what makes this story special... because if you watch the videos on youtube is it undeniable that the hyena LOVES ME.

I don't really care if you approve or not. I never asked for your approval, and definitely don't need it.

I have no regrets... The only approval I need is Jakes face every day when I see him light up in excitement every time I show up for him. He is very special to me... we have been through so much together and I love him more than you will ever know or understand.

The USDA inspector said that Jake is the healthiest, friendliest, calm, relaxed hyena she has ever met in her entire career of inspecting animals. So although I did not originally go about it in the proper procedures... I did a damn good job raising him. Those are not opinions those are facts from USDA.

Just some things to think about before ignorantly calling me selfish... I have altered my entire world for this animal. He brings an immense amount of joy to my life and am far beyond confident that the feeling is mutual for Jake Have a nice day

Bryan Hawn

P.S> if you want tips on how to establish a relationship with a hyena... let me know because I guarentee none of your zoo keeper friends nor yourself have the first clue, and there are no books on it because its only actually been done by a few people in the world.

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

hahahahahahaha! Wow man you are so funny!! How original!!! NOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wildbillhiccups
Wildbillhiccups

Read your own story dikwad. First he kept it in an apartment where it bounced off walls.Walmart School of Journalism Graduate?

Alvarado1
Alvarado1

Carlos you are a freaking douchebag. The hyena is not running around loose. Jake is being legally kept an a wild animal refuge in the Redland. Obviously you don't know how to read otherwise you wouldn't be making an ass of yourself.

Ben Johnson
Ben Johnson

If u were next door I would make sure that he ate you first... Lol

 
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