Calf is Part of European Bison Comeback

The last wild European Bison was shot in 1927, but the species has made a comeback thanks to breeding programs like one at Poland’s Zoo Wroclaw, where a male calf was born on September 19.

Keepers named the new calf Powolniak, which translates as “the slow one,” reflecting his relaxed personality.   The calf’s name needed to start with “PO” because he was born in Poland, according to naming rules dictated by the European Bison Pedigree Book, which tracks the parentage of each animal to maintain the highest possible level of genetic diversity in the population. 

DSC02317Photo Credit:  Zoo Wroclaw

Despite their massive size – males can weigh more than one ton and stand six feet tall at the shoulders – keepers at Zoo Wroclaw say that their Bison herd is calm in nature. 

Three subspecies of European Bison, Europe’s largest wild mammal, once roamed the entire European continent.  One by one, they each became extinct in the wild until in the 1920s, only 12 European Bison and seven Lowland Bison remained in some European zoos.

After World War II, zoos began to cooperate to save the European Bison and Poland became the center of the breeding efforts.  Today, more than 5,000 European Bison live in zoos and wild areas in Europe, with a high concentration in Poland.   Once listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the European Bison is now listed as Vulnerable. 

See more photos of the European Bison calf below.

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These Bison Babies Could Have a Wild Future


Two baby European Bison born at Scotland’s Highland Wildlife Park may one day roam eastern Europe’s natural areas as part of a program to reestablish the species, which became extinct in the wild in 1927.

The calves, one male and one female, were born at the drive-through reserve on May 13 to two different mothers.  The births are part of an international program, led by Highland Wildlife Park, to manage the zoo-dwelling Bison population and help increase the wild herds.

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16_06_28_EuropeanBison_01_kpPhoto Credit: Highland Wildlife Park

European Bison are similar to American Bison and once roamed most of eastern, central, and western Europe.  By 1927, there were no European Bison remaining in the wild, but 54 animals were living in zoos.

Since then, the European Bison has become a conservation success story.  Through managed breeding, genetic diversity has been maximized and animals have been transported from zoos to wilderness areas in eastern Europe. Bison born at Highland Wildlife Park have been translocated in the past, and a large group is set to move to Romania later this year.

When these two calves are old enough, they may join their herdmates in the wilds of eastern Europe.

Bison Baby Born at Brookfield Zoo

It is not exactly the sound of a stampede but more like the pitter-patter of little hooves that guests can hear at Chicago's Brookfield Zoo’s Great Bear Wilderness exhibit with the addition of a Bison calf born on May 16. The female calf marks the first birth of this species at Brookfield Zoo since the early 1970s.

The birth is a welcome addition for mom Leotie, age 3, and father Ron, age 12, considering the species was slaughtered to near extinction in the late 1800s. Bison were hunted for their meat and bones but primarily for their hides, which were made into clothing, machine belts, and rugs. Historically, tens of millions of bison traveled hundreds of miles over the same route through the Great Plains, shaping the land and enriching the soil. Remnants of their deeply worn paths are still visible. But by the end of the 19th century, bison populations were eliminated over 98 percent of their range in the lower 48 states, resulting in fewer than 1,000 individuals remaining.

Calves are usually born in late spring and weigh 40 to 70 pounds at birth. Their coat is reddish at first, and darkens over a period of about 15 weeks. They are able to stand within half an hour of being born and can run after a few hours. Calves begin grazing when they are just shy of a week old but continue to nurse for several months.


Photo Credit: Brookfield Zoo

Read about this bison's conservation success story after the jump:

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