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Animals 2018, 8(10), 163;

Development and Assessment of a Body Condition Score Scheme for European Bison (Bison bonasus)

Leibniz Institute of Zoo and Wildlife Research, Alfred-Kowalke-Straße 17, 10315 Berlin, Germany
Grassland and Forage Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and the Environment, University of Rostock, Justus-von-Liebig-Weg 6, 18059 Rostock, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 25 July 2018 / Revised: 14 September 2018 / Accepted: 22 September 2018 / Published: 26 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Section Wildlife)
PDF [2474 KB, uploaded 26 September 2018]

Simple Summary

Europe’s largest terrestrial mammal, the European bison (Bison bonasus), has been successfully restored after the species had become extinct in the wild. In various reintroduction projects, captive bred European bison have been released into different habitats. Vigorous monitoring efforts are necessary to document how well the animals adapt to their new environment. In this study, we present a scheme that was developed for the observation of the body condition of adult European bison. Unbiased people with different professional backgrounds were asked to apply this scheme. While additional research is necessary to further validate the scheme, it was easy to use and covered the essential body traits. Therefore, it can be a helpful management tool.


Resettlement projects of the strongly threatened European bison (Bison bonasus) require a monitoring phase to assess both population status and habitat quality. Schemes of animal body condition scores (BCS) are robust tools to meet this requirement in practice. However, so far, no BCS scheme has been designed for European bison. Here, we suggest a body condition score scheme based on the extent of soft tissue around bony structures. The scoring system was developed with scores ranging from 1 (emaciated) to 5 (obese). Condition scores can be deduced after visually assessing the European bison both from the side and behind. Robustness of the scheme was evaluated: Unbiased people from different professional backgrounds were asked to assess the BCS of photographed semiwild European bison under field conditions and results were compared. Results demonstrate the suitability of the method. Nevertheless, variability of the results among assessors illustrates the necessity for training as well as for further research to validate the scheme as a true measure of physiological condition. We discuss the prospects and limits of a broad use of this scheme within the European bison community, and recommend the BCS scheme as a management tool. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bison bonasus; body condition score; score scheme; health status; rewilding; management Bison bonasus; body condition score; score scheme; health status; rewilding; management

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Zielke, L.; Wrage-Mönnig, N.; Müller, J. Development and Assessment of a Body Condition Score Scheme for European Bison (Bison bonasus). Animals 2018, 8, 163.

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