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Thursday, February 22, 2024

A huge herd of bison on the outskirts of the Białowieża Forest. “We were surprised by so many in one place”

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A huge herd of bison, numbering as many as 170 individuals, was observed on the outskirts of the Białowieża Forest. This wonderful information was shared with us by the Science in Poland website. Such large herds have never been seen before either in the Forest or in its vicinity, emphasize specialists from the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Białowieża, monitoring European bison as part of research on the reproduction of these large mammals.

At the end of December 2022, scientists observed a large herd of bison on the outskirts of the Białowieża Forest. Experts emphasize that such a huge swarm of these mammals has never been seen before either in the Forest or in its vicinity. in this region at the beginning of winter, probably due to a sudden attack of winter, heavy snowfall and a drop in temperature – to several degrees below zero degrees Celsius.

– We were surprised by such a large number of bison in one place – said Professor Rafał Kowalczyk from the Institute of Mammal Biology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, head of research on bison, quoted in a press release sent to the Science in Poland website. – We monitor bison herds in several places in Poland and abroad, and so far the largest herd, numbering 136 individuals, was observed by us this winter on the outskirts of the Knyszyn Forest. When we saw a huge herd on the outskirts of the Białowieża Forest, we wondered if it could match the one in Knyszyn – he added.

A drone image, used by scientists to assess the size and structure of herds, dispelled doubts. Scientists provided information about the huge herd with a delay, so as not to cause unnecessary sensation due to the increasing pressure of photographers and nature observers.

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European bison on the outskirts of the Białowieża ForestIBS PAN in Białowieża

European bison population in Poland

The use of a drone in research allows not only to count bison, but also to assess the structure of herds. With its help, you can count calves, and with the appropriate enlargement of the photo, you can recognize cows, bulls and juveniles. There were nearly 40 calves in this herd. The scientists point out that the raids are made at high altitude so as not to scare the animals, and the drone’s zoom camera allows for the right close-ups.

“The number of bison in the Białowieża Forest, and throughout Poland, is regularly growing. Last winter, the Białowieża National Park counted 779 bison in the Forest. Part of the population migrates seasonally from the forest to open areas. Migrations of entire herds have been observed since the 1990s, which is related with the European bison’s natural preference for open areas and the availability of attractive food, such as winter crops of rapeseed and cereals, as well as mowed corn fields, where they can find numerous cobs of this plant. traditional feeding places, they choose more attractive food outside the forest. This leads to conflicts, although browsing winter crops or rape does not have to lead to a significant reduction in yields, because the browsed plants grow back and spread. Grazing on winter crops is deliberately used in some countries in cattle breeding” – informs IBS PAN.

– European bison are social animals and large herds, especially in winter, should not surprise anyone. However, large flocks in open areas are a cause for concern, although this is often the result of mismanagement of this species. Introducing European bison to forest areas, especially poor coniferous forests, sooner or later results in migration of these animals to open areas in search of food. We observe this in the Knyszyńska Forest, but also in the recently established population in the Augustów Forest. It is worrying that new herds are being created in coniferous forests. Recently, European bison were released in the Janowskie Forests, where pine dominates over 80 percent of the stands. And the introduction of European bison to Bory Dolnośląskie is announced. This condemns these animals to winter feeding, and in the future to conflicts when they start migrating to open areas – noted Professor Kowalczyk.

Hajnowka area. A herd of about forty bison grazed in the meadowTVN24

What environment is best for bison?

The mosaic of habitats in sparsely populated areas is the most suitable for bison, emphasize people studying the ecology of these animals. Meadows and river valleys are environments rich in food also in winter. Hay from mown meadows, stacked in stacks, provides food for these mammals, and regrowing vegetation offers green biomass also in winter. Introducing bison to such areas, for example former military training grounds, will help to reduce conflicts, but also to reduce human care to the necessary minimum. Zootechnical methods in the protection of European bison are one of the threats to the species, causing an increase in the risk of parasitic invasions and diseases, and leading to the European bison’s dependence on humans and reducing their fear.

– The European bison is a wild species and we should allow it to be wild – emphasizes Kowalczyk.

European bisonShutterstock

sciencewpolsce.pl, ibs.bialowieza.pl, tvnmeteo.pl.

Main photo source: IBS PAN in Białowieża

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