Bison herd leader found decapitated on Valencia nature preserve

A bison on the Valdeserrillas nature preserve.

A bison on the Valdeserrillas nature preserve.

Investigators suspect poisoning, after three bulls vanish and rest of the herd found intoxicated

Unknown attackers have targeted a herd of European bison living on a nature preserve in Spain’s Valencia region.

Employees of the Valdeserrillas Reserve found the alpha male’s decapitated body on Friday. Three animals were gone, and the rest of the 12-bull herd was suffering from diarrhea, leading investigators to believe that the bovines may have been poisoned.

Investigators did not find any bullet wounds in the body, nor did any cartridges turn up in the vicinity

The Civil Guard’s nature protection service, Seprona, is analyzing whether poison might have been added to the animals’ food or water.

The reserve’s communications chief, Rodolfo Navarro, said that director Carlos Álamo noticed something amiss last Tuesday. After noticing strange behavior in the animals and three specimens missing, a search party was sent out across the 365-hectare estate – the equivalent of 400 soccer fields.

On Friday, the alpha male of the herd, a bull weighing 800 kilograms, was located on the grounds. But the head was gone. He was described by Navarro as having been “the largest, healthiest and most beautiful specimen” in the herd.

Investigators did not find any bullet wounds in the body, nor did any cartridges turn up in the vicinity. Because the alpha male was the first member of the herd to eat and ingested the largest amounts of food, he may have been the first to feel the effects of the poison, members of Seprona indicated.

The three missing animals are still unaccounted for. The premises are fenced in to prevent the animals from escaping, but Navarro said it would be relatively easy for intruders to slip in because of the large size of the preserve.

The 12 specimens of Bison Bonasus, considered an endangered species, arrived in Spain between June 2015 and May 2016 after two years’ worth of paperwork with the European Union. The incident could entail a fine of €600,000.

The Valdeserrillas reserve was created in 1972 for the study, preservation and reintroduction of species in the area of Los Serranos, in Valencia province.

Published ElPais 19 September 2016

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