Wild bison to return to UK for first time in 6,000 years

Monday, August 3rd, 2020

Wild bison to return to UK for first time in 6,000 years , with the release of a small herd in Kent planned for spring 2022:

The £1m project to reintroduce the animals will help secure the future of an endangered species. But they will also naturally regenerate a former pine wood plantation by killing off trees. This creates a healthy mix of woodland, scrub and glades, boosting insect, bird and plant life.

During the initial release, one male and three females will be set free. Natural breeding will increase the size of the herd, with one calf per year the norm for each female. The bison will come from the Netherlands or Poland, where releases have been successful and safe.


Bison kill selected trees by eating their bark or rubbing against them to remove their thick winter fur. This creates a feast of dead wood for insects, which provide food for birds. Tree felling also creates sunny clearings where native plants can thrive. The trust expects nightingales and turtle doves to be among the beneficiaries of the bison’s “ecosystem engineering”.

The steppe bison is thought to have roamed the UK until about 6,000 years ago, when hunting and changes in habitat led to its global extinction. The European bison that will be released in Kent is a descendant of this species and its closest living relative.

The European bison is the continent’s largest land mammal and bulls can weigh as much as a tonne.


  1. Bob Sykes says:

    Herbivores like white tailed deer and bison will destroy a woodland if they are not culled. The UK will have to introduce regular hunting of the herd.

    By the way, in Yellowstone some American bison carry brucellosis, which can infect beef cattle. That is yet another management problem.

    Wolves help in Yellowstone, although they tend spread out of the park. There are wild wolves in eastern Germany. They might help with the bison, but they might find sheep and dairy cattle easier.

  2. Bob Sykes says:

    I apologize for too many posts.

    Open woodland is really a function of climate, meaning specifically a relatively dry climate that favors grasses over trees. The UK’s climate is not conducive to open woodland.

    This looks like yet another environmentalist boondoggle, based on romanticized superstition. This used to be a Germany specialty.

  3. Grasspunk says:

    They’ll test these bison for brucellosis, leucosis and tuberculosis for sure and likely a bunch more given how they’ll get plenty of attention from the media, general public and nearby farmers.They’ll need that just to get in the country. The fun is going to be in handling these guys once they’ve been wild for a while and you need to retest them.

    In these sorts of climates a big enough herd of ruminants will create a grassland. Take them away and you get a woodland. I’m not in the UK but here in France if I leave a pasture alone for a few years I will get an oak forest. I’ve already got an ex-vineyard well on the way.

  4. Gavin Longmuir says:

    From the Article: “The project, funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund, will cover 500 hectares (1,236 acres), with the bison first placed in a 150-hectare area where there are no right-of-way footpaths. This will provide plenty of space for them, even as the herd grows, according to Smith, and normal cattle fencing is sufficient to stop them wandering further afield.”

    Hmmm! In my part of the world, cattle fencing is more or a reminder to the animals than a barrier; fortunately, many cattle are bred for docility as well as their meat & milk. A bull bison which weighs 3 tons is going to go where it wants. And ~400 acres is nothing!

    The interesting part will be the genetic abnormalities which arise from breeding such a small population (1 male, 3 females). If this project lasts for enough generations, it may tell us something new.

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