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Free-living European bison population in Russia to grow to 500 animals by end of year

The European bison is on Russia’s Red List of Threatened Species

MOSCOW, March 7. /TASS/. The free-living bison population in Central Russia is expected to grow from 400 to 500 animals by the end of the current year, and further on to 1,000 in a span of ten years, the press service of the Russian ministry of natural resources said on Tuesday.

"According to the ministry’s estimates, the free-living, or living in the wild, population of European bison in Russia will increase up to 500 animals by the yearend and to 1,000 animals within ten years," the ministry said.

As of today, Russia is home to about 1,500 free-living European bisons, however, 850 of them living in the Caucasian wildlife reserve are wisent-American bison hybrids. The rest are pure-bred wisents, with 400 of them living in Central Russia. Notably, only pure-bred animals are typically released into the wild.

"By the year 2020, the European bison population in three Central Russian regions, namely Kaluga, Bryansk and Tula regions, will grow to be the world’s biggest," said Russian Minister of Natural Resources Sergei Donskoi.

Thus, the population of these animals in Poland numbers 600, and in Belarus - 515.

European bison conservation effort

Russia’s ministry of natural resources adopted a European Bison Conservation Strategy back in July 2002. Over the year that have passed since then, the population of free-living European bison has more than tripled.

About 160 wisents live in the Kaluzhskiye Zaseki nature reserve in the Kaluga region. The population demonstrates an annual growth of about 30% A stable bison group has formed in the borderland between the Oryol, Kaluga and Bryansk region.

In 2017, two bison females from Kaluzhskiye Zaseki were taken to the Bryansky Les nature reserve, which has been working on the project of restoration of free-living bison population since 2011. The local herds badly need females, so now, with two new females, specialists hope for quicker growth of the population. Apart from that, two more animals are expected to arrive here form the Orlovskoye Polesye national park.

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 12 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.