Wednesday 9 December 2015

New home needed for Europe’s largest land animal - bison, say Polish wildlife experts

Bison numbers are expected to keep rising after the land animal's numbers soared from zero to 1,500 since 1951

By Matthew Day, Warsaw

9:20AM GMT 08 Dec 2015

Wildlife experts in Poland are looking for a new home for the European bison, Europe’s largest land animal, owing to its burgeoning population.

Once hunted to extinction in the wild, and still confined to only a few pockets of forests in Poland and other European countries, the mammoth beast is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Since its re-introduction into the wild in 1951 the number of bison in Poland has soared from zero to over 1,500, and the country is now home to the majority of Europe's 2,700 free-roaming bison.

Having no natural predator and with their hunting prohibited, bison numbers are expected to keep on growing, but their success at reproduction has spawned problems.

"The herd populations are already too large and the locations of the herds no longer have the resources to meet their needs," Professor Wanda Olech-Piasecka, from Warsaw’s School of Life Sciences, told the Polish News Agency.

Food in their natural habitat of forest and meadow has started to become scarce forcing the bison to stray into farmland in their hunt for fodder. There is also a need to disperse the population to stop the spread of disease and limit in-breeding.

"We actually have no other choice," said Krzysztof Oniszczuk, director of state forests around the eastern city of Bialystok. "We have to come up with a good solution before the herds become too big."

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