Space Use and Movement Patterns in a Semi-Free-Ranging Herd of European Bison (Bison bonasus)

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Abstract

The successful reintroduction and restocking of the European Bison demands a reliable knowledge of the biology of this species. Yet little is known to date about the European bison, and empirical data remains insufficient to set up a reliable plan ensuring the reintroduction, maintenance and survival of populations in habitats that have been largely modified by human activity. Studies of the ecology, social behaviour and management of bison are therefore crucial to the conservation of this species and its cohabitation with humans. To meet these challenges, we focused on movement patterns and space use in a semi-freeranging herd of European bison living in the Réserve Biologique des Monts-d-Azur (France). Bison spend over 80% of their time foraging and resting; foraging mainly occurs around the artificial feeding sites (i.e., hay racks) or in meadows. The time of day and the presence of snow have no influence on the time budget allocated to each activity. Animals, however, spend more time at the food racks in winter. Bison also spend most of their time in small groups of individuals, confirming the occurrence of both fission-fusion dynamics and sexual segregation in this species. Bison seem to follow a Lévy walk pattern of movement, which is probably related to the geographical distribution and size of food patches in the reserve. The conclusions of this study provide a better understanding of the sociality, life habits and habitat use of bison, and also describe how the provision of hay affects all these behaviours. These results could be useful in the development of tools to select the most suitable habitats for the reintroduction, management and conservation of bison populations.

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Ramos, A., Petit, O., Longour, P., Pasquaretta, C., & Sueur, C. (2016). Space Use and Movement Patterns in a Semi-Free-Ranging Herd of European Bison (Bison bonasus). PLoS ONE, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0147404

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