Return of the Bison

Bison return to the UK for the first time in millennia.

Gil Pires
3 min readJun 11, 2023
Photo of a European bison by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.

It was early September in South East England, when — for the first time in millennia — a wild baby Bison was born in the United Kingdom (UK). The calf, covered in light brown fur, was caught on camera jumping around the woodland to the surprise of everyone. After all, there were no male bison in the country at the time.

The European bison (Bison bonasus), also known as Wisent, is the largest land mammal native to Europe and one of the continent’s last species of megafauna. These animals have been plagued by centuries of habitat destruction and hunting, which led to the species becoming extinct in the wild in the aftermath of the first World War.

Since then, multiple reintroduction have taken place across the continent, beginning in Poland, 1952. There are now an estimated twenty-five hundred mature bison roaming freely in Europe, according to the IUCN Red List, and populations appear to be growing.

In the United Kingdom, the European bison had been lost for an estimated six thousand years. Far longer than in mainland Europe. That was of course until last July, when a herd of three female bison was released in the West Blean and Thornden Woods of England — a nature reserve, located in the county of Kent, North of Canterbury.