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MOSCOW, July 14. /TASS/. A herd of 12 young European bison who broke free from their enclosure in the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve near Moscow after a storm on July 12 has finally been spotted. Now the animals are to be driven back to the reserve, which is a daring task for zoologists, Irina Zemlyanko, a deputy director of the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve told TASS on Friday.
According to Zemlyanko, zoologists have taken a decision to give the runaway animals some time to rest as they must be stressed and tired after days of running.
In her words, zoologists and forest rangers are keeping a close eye on the animals. "We left them some 1.5 kilometers away from the nature reserve," she said, adding that the animals have been encircled by zoologists who are gradually pushing them towards their enclosure. To attract the bison, specialists scatter fodder.
The bison ran away from their enclosure overnight to July 12 when a falling free broke the enclosure’s fence. The animals have been roaming the forests around the nature reserve ever since. The search operation involved hang gliders and a sporting plane.
The young bison, three years old each, are fostered at the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve to be later released into the wild.
Located about 100 kilometers south of Moscow, on terraces of the Oka River valley covered with pine and mixed forests, the Prioksko-Terrasny Nature Reserve is one of Russia’s smallest nature reserves. Occupying as area of some 5,000 hectares, the reserve is home to 142 species of birds and 57 species of wild mammals, including European bison.
Standing up to two meters tall at the shoulders and weighing up to 1,000 kilograms, the European bison, also known as the wisent, is Europe’s largest terrestrial animal. Reducing habitat and hunting drove this species to extinction in 1927 when the last wild animal was killed in Poland’s Bialowieza forest. All living animals descended from twelve individuals that were kept in captivity at the early 20th century. Those animals were cross-bred with American bison.
The European bison is on Russia’s Red List of Threatened Species.