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    An abundance of moose in Poland

    “Gazeta Polska Codziennie” reached the results of the moose count survey in Poland. The number of these animals is growing annually and, according to researchers, has already exceeded 40,000. Along with this, the problems are also increasing.

    September is the time of year when the frequency of moose accidents increases. This is the time of year when these animals migrate intensively. A week ago, there was a tragic accident in Annówka in the Lublin region in which a 64-year-old man died. The incident took an unusual course. Initial examination indicated that the Skoda collided with a moose, which fell on the hood and cab of the car. However, the car stopped after 100 meters hitting a tree. 


    Increasingly people are saying that there are too many of these animals. “Gazeta Polska Codziennie” accessed the results of a study on the subject conducted by the “Polish Foundation for the Protection of Wild Animals”. According to the researchers, previous studies on the subject have been inaccurate and the number of these animals was underestimated. All because there was a lack of methods how to count such animals. 


    “The moose population of 26,800 in Poland in 2020 reported by the Central Statistical Office (GUS) is probably significantly underestimated. Currently, moose are found in 205 forest districts and 7 national parks. It is therefore very likely that the moose population in Poland is about 50,000 individuals,” the scientists write. 


    The reason for the increase in numbers is that the hunting of this animal was stopped in 2001. The moratorium, which was supposed to last 10 years, continues today. 


    “The suspension of moose hunting has resulted in a noticeable increase in the population. The feeding pressure of these animals on regeneration felling increased, which resulted in the necessity of fencing off forest crops and coppice. Currently, moose are the cause of numerous traffic accidents. It is likely that overcrowded populations also negatively affect the species composition of the flora of valuable and rare forest habitats. Quick administrative decisions to regulate moose density are therefore necessary, but their basis must be knowledge of the current population size,” the researchers write in their publication. 


    For three years, they conducted field research to determine moose numbers in five of the 17 regional Forestry Boards. Their research suggests that there may be 40,000 moose in these units alone. These animals also do concrete damage to forests, which foresters have been meticulously estimating for years. From the data, which GP obtained in the National Forests, between 2013 and 2021, moose destroyed more than 72 thousand hectares of forest stands. This means that the area of forest wasted by moose exceeds the area of… polish part of the Białowieża Forest.


    The biggest losses are caused by moose in the eastern part of Poland, i.e., Podlasie. This is followed by Masuria, the Lublin region, but also the area around Warsaw and Toruń. Today, many communities call for a reduction in the number of these animals. Still, such appeals fall on stony ground. When ideas are raised, animal protectors on one side and scientists on the other become immediately active, talking about the vulnerability of moose. 


    It is indeed the case that Poland is the limit of the occurrence of this species in the west. As if that wasn’t enough, twice in the past we’ve already had a population crisis of this species. The first time was after the war, when there were a few dozen moose in the whole country and they had to be introduced from the east, and the second time was at the beginning of the millennium when the number dropped to 1500. 


    Attempts to resume hunting have been made in the past by the Civic Platform. Conceptual work on lifting the moratorium was also undertaken by the R.I.P. Prof. Jan Szyszko. In both cases, it ended in a political brawl and a huge public action to defend the moose. Meanwhile, in many countries in Europe, the number of these animals is regulated. According to the “Strategy for the conservation and management of the moose population in Poland”, the Estonian system is considered to be exemplary.


    “Noteworthy is a large number of moose (about 10,000 -12,000 individuals) found in Estonia. This population is commercially exploited and hunters harvest approximately 4,000 moose each year during the harvesting season. The growth in this population is so great that it balances or even exceeds hunting harvest. Rational management of the moose population is carried out in Estonia, and hunting plans for the whole country are set by one institution which also controls the harvest. The moose management model in Estonia is considered to be exemplary and probably the best in Europe. This model has been accepted for years by both hunters and foresters, who have managed to work out a compromise involving the permanent presence of moose in Estonia, their numbers being optimal from the point of view of the species’ biology and acceptable in terms of damage from moose in forests,” it is said in the publication. 


    In Poland, however, no compromise has been reached so far.


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