Annual bison count in the Białowieża Forest. Their number is growing

Luc Williams

Information about the results of the winter inventory (assumed to be at the end of 2023) was published on Monday on its social media by the Białowieża National Park. Data on the number of bisons were based on approximately 170 observations from a two-day count. At the end of 2022, 829 bisons were counted in the Polish part of the Białowieża Forest, including nearly 140 calves.

“Many animals were observed in the fields adjacent to the forest”

The annual count of bisons in the Białowieża Forest, where they have the largest population in Poland, is always carried out in winter. Employees of the national park, foresters from the Białowieża, Bielsk, Browsk, Hajnówka, Nurzec and Rudka forest districts, as well as volunteers, count bisons, taking advantage of the fact that in winter, animals gather in larger groups in feeding places and do not leave for a long time. Individual pieces can then be traced by traces in the snow, if there is any. A drone has also been used to count bison for several years.

In information about the results of this inventory, the park points out that bison are wandering further and further from the Białowieża Forest; ten bisons were counted in the forests of the Rudka forest district, and a dozen or so bisons in the Nurzec forest district.

“Many animals were observed in the fields adjacent to the forest, where they feed on winter crops and corn. These bisons are shy, often move and mix, which makes it difficult to count them and verify which bisons have been registered several times,” the park said, noting that the inventory brings data estimates, because – due to the size of the population and the vastness of the area – it is impossible to count the animals individually.

A large part of the counted population lives outside the Białowieża Forest

Dr. Katarzyna Daleszczyk from the BPN bison breeding center pointed out that a large part of the counted population lives outside the Białowieża Forest and is no longer connected with it. Estimates say that this is almost half of the counted bisons. “These bisons have already left the forest, moved to nearby areas and are not coming back,” the expert told PAP. She cited the Bielsk Forest District as an example of such a situation.

“But we also have the Rudka forest district and the Nurzec forest district, i.e. bisons that are very far from the Białowieża Forest and there are actually no grounds to forcibly connect them with this forest,” added Dr. Daleszczyk. “We are aware that sometimes there are conflicts, but the fact that bisons spread to new areas is the result of planned activities,” she said.

Daleszczyk added that we can also see, for example, bison migration from the Białowieża Forest to the Knyszyńska Forest. “This is definitely a plus for the population, because these genes do mix,” the expert emphasized.

author: Robert Fiłończuk


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