The comeback of European Bison in free-living herds of more than 100 animals in, at least, five areas is one of the targets of Rewilding Europe’s wildlife recovery programme for the coming ten years. To achieve this, Rewilding Europe commissioned Flaxfield Nature Consultancy to draw up an action plan and prepare two reintroductions of European Bison in the next two years.
European Bison is the largest herbivore in Europe and a key species in the development of open forest ecosystems. The last bison in the wild died in 1927, but luckily the species survived in a few European zoological gardens. Currently about 2000 bison are living in wild parks. Reintroductions started already in 1952 (Bialowieza), but in today there are still only three wild herds with more than 100 individuals, a number that is regarded as critical to survive in the long term. And even these herds are managed by man, for example by additional winterfeeding, and restricted “access” to semi-natural habitats.
Rewilding Europe will offer the bison its unique and natural role in European wildlands and will stimulate the long-term survival of the species, all in close cooperation with the existing bison specialist groups in Europe. Flaxfield Nature Consultancy will put together an overall strategy for the comeback of European Bison, an inventory of available bison, a breeding strategy (in relation to the European Wildlife Bank to be set up by Rewilding Europe), detailed protocols for transport and handling of animals, adaptation and pre-release sites, the protection of bison after release, etc.
The Bison Action Plan is allowed by the support of Swedish Postcode Foundation and a grant of Adessium Foundation to the European Wildlife Bank.