Bison bonasus Linnaeus, 1758 ♂
Common names: European bison, Wisent [En], Bison d’Europe [Fr], Wisent, Europese bizon [Nl], Wisent, Europäische Bison [De], Bisonte europeo [It], Bisonte europeo [Es], Ευρωπαϊκός βίσονας, Βίσων ο βόνασος [Gr], Avrupa bizonu [Tu], Zimbru [Ro]
IUCN Status : VU (Vulnerable)
Haţeg, HUNEDOARA ● Romania
Description: The European bison is the heaviest surviving wild land animal in Europe; a typical European bison is about 2.1 to 3.5 m long, not counting a tail of 30 to 80 cm long, and 1.6 to 1.95 m tall.
An occasional big bull European bison can weigh up to 1,000 kg or more.
On average, it is slightly lighter in body mass and yet taller at the shoulder than the American bison (Bison bison). Compared to the American species, the wisent has shorter hair on the neck, head, and forequarters, but longer tail and horns.
3 sub-species of European bison were described and only one survived.
• Bison bonasus bonasus Linnaeus, 1758 – Poland and Germany
• † Bison bonasus caucasicus Turkin et Satunin, 1904 – Caucasus
• † Bison bonasus hungarorum Kretzoi, 1946 – Carpathian mountains and Transylvania
European bison can cross-breed with American bison (Bison bison).
Biology: Bison usually live in small herds of about 10 animals. The European bison is a herd animal, which lives in both mixed and solely male groups. Mixed groups consist of adult females, calves, young aged 2–3 years and young adult bulls. The average herd size is dependent on environmental factors, though on average, they number eight to 13 animals per herd. Herds consisting solely of bulls are smaller than mixed ones, containing two individuals on average. European bison herds are not family units. Different herds frequently interact, combine and quickly split after exchanging individuals.
The rutting season occurs from August through to October. Cows usually have a gestation period of 264 days, and typically give birth to one calf at a time.
European bison feed predominantly on grasses, although they will also browse on shoots and leaves; in summer months, an adult male can consume 32 kg of food in a day.
European bison need to drink every day, and in winter can be seen breaking ice with their heavy hooves. Despite their usual slow movements, European bison are surprisingly agile and can clear 3-m-wide streams or 2-m-high fences from a standing start.
Habitat: The European bison (Bison bonasus) live mainly in the forest.
Distribution and almost extinction: Historically, the lowland European bison’s range encompassed most of the lowlands of northern Europe, extending from the Massif Central to the Volga River and the Caucasus. It may have once lived in the Asiatic part of what is now the Russian Federation. The European bison is known in southern Sweden only between 9500 and 8700 BP, and in Denmark similarly is documented only from the Pre-Boreal. It is not recorded from the British Isles nor from Italy or the Iberian Peninsula.
Within mainland Europe its range decreased as human populations expanded and cut down forests. In the past, it was commonly killed for its hide, and to produce drinking horns.
The species survived in the Ardennes and the Vosges Mountains until the 15th century. In the Early Middle Ages, the wisent apparently still occurred in the forest steppes east of the Urals, in the Altay Mountains, and seems to have reached Lake Baikal in the east. The northern boundary in the Holocene was probably around 60°N in Finland.
European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild in the early 20th century. During World War I, occupying German troops killed 600 of the European bison in the Białowieża Forest for sport, meat, hides, and horns. At the very end of the war, retreating German soldiers shot all but nine animals.
Reintroduction: The protection of the European bison has a long history; between the 15th and 18th centuries, those in the Forest of Białowieża were protected and their diet supplemented. Efforts to restore this species to the wild began in 1929, with the establishment of the Bison Restitution Centre at Białowieża, Poland.
The modern herds are managed as two separate lines – one consisting of only Bison bonasus bonasus (all descended from only seven animals) and one consisting of all 12 ancestors, including the one B. b. caucasicus bull.
Beginning in 1951, European bison have been reintroduced into the wild. Free-ranging herds are currently found in Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan, Germany and in forest preserves in the Western Caucasus. Białowieża Forest, an ancient woodland that straddles the border between Poland and Belarus, is now home to 800 wild bison. Herds have also been introduced in Moldova (2005), Spain (2010), Denmark (2012), Bulgaria (2012) and Czech Republic (2014).
The total worldwide population is around 4,663 (including 2,701 free-ranging) and has been increasing.
In Romania: Well present in Romanian forests (the various place names containing the word “zimbru” wich means bison in Romanian as a prove), the European bison completely disappear from Romania around 1850.
A forest reserve of bison, with an area of 40 ha, was created in the Slivuţ forest, near the town of Haţeg, since 1958, with 2 specimens from Poland. 2 other were added in 1970. Originated from these first bisons, 16 individuals were set free 4 years ago in the Natural Park of Vanatori Neamt (NE of Romania).
Wikipedia, European bison
Haţeg Bison Reservation