Bison are being reintroduced to the Romanian mountains after being rescued from extinction.


Bison are being reintroduced to the Romanian mountains after being rescued from extinction.

Even if the newest residents of Romania’s Carpathian mountain forest are wary of visitors, their footprints in the mud and tree bark chewed away are visible to those who know where to look.

They’re proof of the success of a mission to return bison to this region after a centuries-long absence, which is important to keeping the hairy giants off endangered species lists.

Bison had been nearly extinct in Europe due to hunting and habitat loss, but their reintroduction in Romania has reintroduced a critical component of the region’s ecosystem.

Matei Miculescu, a young forest warden, is on the lookout for members of the Carpathian herd in the mild fall sunshine on the edge of a centuries-old wood.

The animals can be difficult to see since they have been enticed deeper into the forest by the abundance of plants and the prospect of expanding their home.

Miculescu claims that the creatures thrive in the wild, as opposed to captivity, which he claims “creates the risk of inbreeding” and reduces the animals’ chances of survival.

On the continent today, approximately 6,000 bison, Europe’s largest mammal and a distant cousin of the American buffalo, can be found.

The majority of them are near the Polish-Belarusian border, when efforts to repopulate the area began in the 1950s.

Bison were reintroduced to Romania’s southwestern Armenis region in 2014, more than 200 years after they were last sighted there.

They were born in captivity in various regions of Europe and given names like Kiwi, Bilbo, and Mildred before being moved to Romania in 16 stages.

“Around 105 bison currently live freely and have settled in nicely in the Tarcu highlands thanks to effective natural reproduction,” explains Marina Druga, project leader for the WWF and Rewilding Europe.

“There haven’t been any deaths in their ranks in the last two years,” Druga says, adding that the goal is to reach a population of “250 individuals in five years.”

The procedure is well-established: the animals are re-acclimatized to life in the wild for several weeks before being released and let to fend for themselves.

They are currently occupying approximately 8,000 hectares of a protected area that covers 59,000 hectares.

According to Wanda Olech-Piasecka of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the southern Carpathians present perfect conditions: “a big region with a sparsely scattered human population and no intense agriculture” (IUCN).

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