In Poland, you can see the largest mammal in Europe. It is the bison (Bison Bonasus) – the king of the forest, the icon of the Bialowieza Forest. Thanks to the efforts of scientists and foresters, it was saved from the brink of extinction. Currently, 1973 bisons live in Poland, of which 1635 are free. There are about 8,000 of them in the world. Almost every 4th bison alive is „Polish”.
One hundred years ago, the last free-living bison in the Białowieza Forest was killed by a poacher. In order to save the species, a few years later, on the initiative of professor Jan Sztolcman, the International Society for the Protection of the Bison was established. It was 1923. Only 54 purebred bisons remained in the world, and 12 of them were used to restore the species. The effort paid off and the first two bisons appeared in the fall of 1929 in the farms built by the then young State Forests in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest. In 1939, there were already 16 animals in the Forest that fortunately survived the Second World War. Currently, there are approximately 1,900 bison in Poland – a number that fills us with pride and optimism, although the bison is still not completely safe. (Source: lasy.gov.pl)
The largest population lives in the Bialowieza Primeval Forest, they can also be found in the Augustow Primeval Forest, in the Bieszczady Mountains and recently also in the Lublin region. These giant mammals are 180 cm tall at the withers and about 160 cm long. They can weigh up to a ton and are vegetarians, i.e. herbivores. The king of the forest can live between 18 and 24 years and is under strict protection.
Bisons have been treated as exceptional animals for centuries, and kings had the privilege of ruling over them. Killing a bison illegally could even result in death.
The current increase in the number of European bison is a considerable success of Polish nature conservation, which does not mean that the species is endangered.
Whoever would like to see the European bison from a close but safe distance they should go to the Bison Show Reserve at the Bialowieza Primeval Forest. Majestic animals walk right up to the fence.