Making Denmark wild again: the incentive, method and risk
Dormice today, elephants tomorrow: who’s going to be more afraid? (photo: Colourbox)
A herd of wild bison grazing near Rønne, elephants trumpeting outside Odense, a pack of wolves howl and prowl as the moon rises over Aarhus. It sounds like some weird apocalyptic film set in Denmark. But it’s actually not that far-fetched.
Whether introduced by humans or via natural migration, all sorts of creatures are moving onto the Danish landscape and could very well have a spectacular effect, good and bad, on the nation’s ecosystem.
READ MORE: Visitors go wild for wild bison on Bornholm
Home on the wild ranges of Bornholm (Photo: Visit Bornholm)
Denmark’s Bornholm island gets rare bison from Poland
Conservation projects have enabled European bison numbers to grow
Denmark’s Baltic island of Bornholm has become a new home for the European bison, an endangered species that was almost wiped out in the last century. Poland sent seven bison – one male and six females – to Bornholm by ferry last week. “They look very well,” project manager Tommy Hansen told the BBC. Denmark hopes the bison will help the island’s biodiversity by conserving meadows, as they like to eat tree bark. The bison numbers may grow and tourism may also benefit from their presence. The two world wars in the 20th Century were devastating for Europe’s bison, as they were hunted for meat in countries hit by widespread hunger.
The Danish Nature Agency project on Bornholm is funded by the Villum Foundation, at a cost of 4m kroner (£435,200; $678,000).
There are very few wild European bison herds – most of the mammals live in the Bialowieza forest, which straddles Belarus and Poland. The bison population there is estimated at about 800.
Bornholm’s bull bison comes from Polish Silesia, while the females are from Bialowieza.
Diversifying the genetic make-up of the bison is important, Mr Hansen said, as the current gene pool of bison in Europe is very limited.
“We needed big mammals to increase the biodiversity on this island – the roe deer is the biggest mammal here,” he explained.
“We want to keep grassland areas open – it’s very important for butterflies and other creatures, and the bison can keep the forest back. They love to eat the bark of young trees.” The European bison (Bison bonasus) is Europe’s heaviest land mammal – adults are generally 3m (10ft) long, 2m tall and weigh up to 900kg (1,984lb).
The Bornholm herd will soon move to a big enclosure of 200 hectares (494 acres) and the hope is that in about five years’ time they will be released into the wild. “We need to see how they deal with people walking around and in cars, and see if they do help the environment,” Mr Hansen said.
The environment on Bornholm is similar to the bison habitat in Poland. The island has a big forest of about 9,000 hectares, with the same mix of deciduous trees and conifers, as well as meadows.
Denmark is also home to some American Bison.
Bo and Jeanette Witte-Pedersen and owns Nørre Kærgård. (http://www.tatanka.dk/)
They have been raising American Bison for about 10 years now and produce enough to also sell their meats.
Ditlevsdal Bison Farm has more than 20 years of experience in bison breeding and is born approx. 1200 calves on the spot, of which approx. 700 have been exported to various bison farms in Europe.
It is important for the bison breed to breed different bloodlines, so there will be no inbred. At Ditlevsdal there are six different bloodlines today. They are divided into four main flocks and smaller flocks, so that different bloodlines can be crossed continuously. The bison oxen are grouped in family flocks and identified by their earmarking.
They have built a gallery, farm shop and have a restaurant and guided tours.