How can leadership processes in European bison be used to improve the management of free-roaming herds

  • Amandine Ramos
  • Lola Manizan
  • Esther Rodriguez
  • Yvonne J. M. Kemp
  • Cédric Sueur
Original Article


For several years, several wild species are experiencing a comeback in Europe, especially large herbivores. Despite the good news, the increased number of wild herbivores also potentially increases human-wildlife conflicts due to crop damages and road traffic accidents where such species have been involved in previously. In this context, studying the movements of animal groups is particularly relevant for managing their use of space and ensure sufficient cohabitation with human populations. We thus studied the European bison (Bison bonasus), a species concerned in several rewilding programs, to understand to what extent individual characteristics and social relationships are involved in the leadership process and how these factors influence the success of group movements. We observed a herd of 14 individuals in Zuid-Kennemerland National Park (the Netherlands) and analysed the initiation phase of spontaneous group movements. We showed that leadership was distributed throughout the group but the two oldest females showed higher propensity to initiate and to be followed. They seemed to have a high social power and a strong capacity to federate probably due to their dominance rank and their knowledge of the areas. The joining process was faster when animals were grouped before departure and when the initiator moved in the direction towards which the majority of individuals was oriented. Individuals joined the movement according to a selective mimetic process, based on kinship. These results, combined with virtual fence device, could be used to manage herd movements in a given territory and thus, might be an innovative tool to decrease human-wildlife conflicts.


Bison bonasus Ungulates Leadership Rewilding Social relationships Virtual fences 



We would like to warmly thank all the teams of Zuid-Kennemerland National Park, PWN, ARK Nature and all partners of the Kraansvlak Bison Project for their valuable help during data collection and their presence during the various stages of our study. We are grateful to Emilio R. Rojas (Wildstats) and Palmyre H. Boucherie for their help for statistical analyses and their scientific contributions, always enriching. We also thank Alexandre Naud, M-A Forin-Wiart and Joffrey Jouma’a for their fruitful advices regarding GLMM analysis.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CNRS, IPHC UMR 717Université de StrasbourgStrasbourgFrance
  2. 2.PWN Waterleidingbedrijf Noord-HollandVelserbroekThe Netherlands
  3. 3.ARK NatureNijmegenThe Netherlands

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