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Why European bison are Poles apart
I have been racking my brains trying to come up with an idea for this article. There’s lots happening in the natural world at this time of year, with young birds fledging and plants coming into flower, but none of it is out of the ordinary. Frustratingly it is too early to tell if drought followed by deluge has had a detrimental effect on wildlife, particularly the species that are only just clinging on in our area, such as the small pearl-bordered fritillary butterfly. So what to write about? Bison!
My mental process went along the lines of – football, Poland and Ukraine, wildlife in Poland – bison.
European bison (Bison bonasus) is an animal I’ve always wanted to see, and the place to see them is the Bialowieza Forest in Poland. The Bialowieza Forest is one of the last remaining areas of the ancient woodland that once stretched across Europe, and is home to a population of European bison. This is quite an achievement as the species became extinct in that area in 1919 when the last remaining wild bison were shot. The German army has been put forward as the greatest culprit for the extinction, as hundreds of bison were killed by hungry soldiers during the First World War. But thankfully there were some animals kept in captivity, and they formed the source population for European bison re-introductions.
The European bison is thought to have been present in the UK until the 11th century, and can be seen again, not quite in the wild, at a New Forest wildlife park.