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It has been exactly 60 years since the iconic European bison, Europe’s largest land mammal, made its triumphant return to the Bieszczady Mountains on October 30, 1963. The arrival, adaptation, and subsequent history of these magnificent creatures are a testament to conservation and dedication.
In the early hours of October 30, 1963, the first batch of European bison from Pszczyna and Niepołomice arrived at the acclimatization enclosure in the Zwór Valley within the Stuposiany Forest District, located in the Bieszczady National Park. This extraordinary event was chronicled in handwritten records and archival press reports. The preparations for the arrival of these majestic animals began with the construction of an acclimatization enclosure, now situated in the Bieszczady National Park, within the Stuposiany Forest District. The enclosure, spanning over 5.5 hectares, featured a wooden fence, a storage-pen, and an observation hut for monitoring the animals. In addition, around 2.5 kilometers of forest road leading to the enclosure were renovated to ensure the safe transport of crates carrying the bison.
Given that the acclimatization occurred during winter, with significant snow cover and persistent frost, the animals were provided with abundant hay and acorns: “Rangers fed the bison, laying out unlimited hay and four kilograms of acorns per head.”
A Local and Tourist Attraction
The bison residing in the enclosure quickly became a local and tourist attraction. Many visitors wanted to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, which had created a sensation. As a result, the Forest District was compelled to employ two guards to manage the influx of curious visitors and redirect them away from the area.
Release into the Wild
In May 1964, with advanced vegetation growth, it was decided to release the bison into the wild. To facilitate their exit, a section of the enclosure was dismantled. However, the bison hesitated to leave initially, only venturing out during the night. For a long time, they stayed close to the vicinity, often seen near Kiczerka, Bukowe Berdo, or Widełki. The bison were unafraid of people and occasionally visited human settlements, observing other domestic animals.
Growth of the Bison Population
Additional bison from the Pszczyna and Niepołomice reserves joined the Bieszczady bison in July 1964. This marked the beginning of a free-roaming bison population in the Bieszczady Mountains. Today, this population numbers around 750 individuals.
A Legacy in Conservation
The acclimatization enclosure in the Widełki Forest District lives on in the form of the Bison Display Enclosure in Muczne, constructed in 2012 within the Stuposiany Forest District. This facility continues the breeding mission initiated by scientists and foresters. The bison at this facility belong to the Bialowieza-Caucasian (mountain) lineage, and each calf born receives a name beginning with “PU.” The Stuposiany Forest District annually holds a competition to name the calves, inviting a wide audience to engage in the bison’s biology and history. Calves born this year received the names: Puerto, Pustynka, Pułapka, and Pudyna, the 40th calf born at the Muczne Bison Display Enclosure.
Based on the text written by Ewelina Górna-Baran and Adam Szmiłyk