European bison in a Dutch dune system

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    National Park

The pilot project is about bringing back European bison to a Western European area where it lives under natural circumstances e.g. no additional food is given, together with Konik horses, Highland cattle, fallow deer, roe deer and rabbits. The project is carried out in a coastal dune area in which forest patches intertwine with open grasslands and shrubberies.

European bison in dune area Kraansvlak. Picture: Ruud Maaskant


  • Habitat types: (half)open grasslands, shrubberies, deciduous as well as coniferous forest
  • Fauna (mega) species present: fallow deer, roe deer, fox, rabbit
  • Fauna species reintroduced: European bison, Konik horse, Highland cattle


  • Description: Naturally composed herd of European bison present in a Dutch dune system along Konik horses and Highland cattle, to counteract encroachment of the landscape. Studies are being performed from the start of the project to gain more insight into bison ecology. Public is very welcome to learn more about the species in/around the area (field excursions, walkway) and promotion takes place in the nearby visitor centre of the National Park as well as via media.
  • Aim: Gain knowledge and experiences with European bison when present under natural conditions and living with other large grazers, to contribute to the conservation of this endangered species. Study the public perception towards bison and improve public awareness.
  • Vision: By studying European bison in Kraansvlak, we are gaining valuable information about the species. After the first successful years (2007-2012), we entered the next five-year phase.
  • Accomplished in 10 years from now: Free living herds in other nature areas in the Netherlands. Other bison projects in the Netherlands as well as abroad being aware of the knowledge gained by main project partners PWN and ARK Nature.
  • Uniqueness: European bison in a natural system which is different to supposed preferred habitat of old growth forests, and without receiving additional feeding. A footpath for public is present in the bison area.
  • Results so far: Gained a lot of practical and scientific knowledge on ecological aspects such as diet composition and habitat utilization, also compared to cattle and horses. Much press attention which is valuable to inform public about the species. Enlargement of the bison area, natural growth of the herd. Translocation of bison to other (starting) bison projects in Spain and Holland, contributing to the conservation of the species.
  • Flagship species: Bison
  • Other characteristics: Education, Recreational activities, Research


  • Inspirational value: Partners involved in the start up phase of this project were not afraid to think outside the box, and moved forward with positivism and enthusiasm to turn ideas into reality. All steps undertaken to prepare for the release of bison into the Dutch project area Kraansvlak, make it that the project is very successful and is an inspiration to other people. In 2016, two other Dutch sites followed after gaining experiences at Kraansvlak.
  • Experience you would like to share: Bringing back European bison; natural grazing with bison, horses and cattle (year round, no feeding); research on bison ecology; partly public access; translocation of bison
  • Experience you would like to gain: Natural grazing of bison in combination with cattle (started in 2016)


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