Bison will be introduced to UK woodland to restore an ancient habitat and its wildlife, conservationists have said. The £1m project, led by Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust, is aimed at helping to manage Blean Woods near Canterbury.
A wild herd of European bison, the continent’s largest land mammal, will be introduced in Spring 2022. The breed is the closest living relative to ancient steppe bison, which once roamed Britain.
The bison will be within a wider 500 hectare (1,200 acre) area with other grazing animals such as Konik ponies, to create varied and healthy habitat, the conservationists said.
The project is to be funded by £1,125,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund
The charities will be preparing the woodland and surrounding area over the next 18 months, including creating a fenced enclosure.
Paul Hadaway, of Kent Wildlife Trust said: “A wilder, nature-based solution is the right one to tackling the climate and nature crisis we now face. Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape.”
Adult males can weigh up to a tonne but bison are peaceful, according to the experts. Let’s hope they are correct or someone is going to be in for quite a surprise.
The rutting, or mating, season for Bison lasts from June through September, with peak activity in July and August. At this time, the older bulls rejoin the herd, and fights often take place between bulls. The herd exhibits much restlessness during breeding season. The animals are belligerent, unpredictable, and most dangerous. They don’t sound so peace now eh?!
Conservationists say that no other species could perform the job of engineering the habitat in quite the same way. Bison and known to fell trees by rubbing up against them, creating areas of space and light in the woods, which help plants such as cow wheat to grow. A chainsaw can actually do a similar job too.