The European bison of Białowieża Forest, Poland

The European bison is one of the two remaining species of Bison, alongside the American bison! Both species suffered from extensive hunting, being close to extinction!

bison_diagram

In case of European bison, it actually disappeared from wilderness in the 1920’s, but was since re-introduced from captivity into special reserves (starting with 1951), semi-wild or wild, under protection of the law, in several European countries to reflect its historical distribution/range, but with different degrees of success depending on country. In any case, its overall reintroduction in the wild was declared a success, the species moving from Endangered in 1996 to recently Vulnerable status, as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

status

We went to see this magnificent animal in Poland, Eastern Europe, in one of the remaining wilderness icons, the Białowieża ancient woodland, home of above 800 exemplars (declared the Polish Biosphere Reserve), at the border with Belarus. The reserve seemed well managed, the forest itself is indeed ancient, seeming untouched by civilization, apart from main entrance where you get the chance to go through a gate, there is in fact no border or fence, some lucky people had the chance to see a bison even driving through the nearby villages, as this youtube film shows! We were not that lucky, we did step on the tracks of the bison and we had a great time there, but the only bison we saw were in the nearby enclosed visitor park. However, the overall place and experience was great, and for sure will repeat it (and the ecosystem seems complete, with wolves living in the reserve and feeding on weak bison occasionally in heavy winters, assuring the overall health of the heard, a natural selection process)!!

If you want to see the wild bison, we recommended to check the national park site before visiting, to learn more: Białowieżki National Park !

For more recent pictures and live videos about the European bison re-introduction into the wild and live follow-up, I suggest following these related facebook pages:

  • Poland, Białowieża Forest: Here
  • Romania, Natural Parc “Vanatori Neamt”: Here

9 thoughts on “The European bison of Białowieża Forest, Poland

    • It is a continuous fight, some countries were more successful than others, but everywhere there are treats to the European bison introduction. For example, in Poland, government wants to start cutting into this ancient forest, for the sake of an once-off local budget boost. In Romania there were reports of un-attended dogs from nearby villages attacking the young bison and worst of all, in Spain, where number of bison was anyway symbolic at around 20, they were poisoned by locals and their heads were cut-off! But there are also people which are supporting, and also local WWF teams, so fingers crossed!

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    • Unfortunately, in Europe, many species are in very low numbers, and many developed European countries refuse to help in these regard. Fingers crossed that bison numbers will remain stable, at 4000 exemplars that is not too much!

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