, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 530-541,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Farm Crops Depredation by European Bison (Bison bonasus) in the Vicinity of Forest Habitats in Northeastern Poland

Abstract

European bison, the largest mammal in Europe, after being exterminated in the wild and then restored during the 20th century is still listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) as a species vulnerable to extinction. However, the increasing number of European bison, through creation of new and expansion of existing populations strongly increases the risk of human-bison conflict in the near future. We analyzed the depredation of farm crops by bison and the factors influencing the level of damage in the vicinity of two forest areas inhabited by bison in northeastern Poland. Between 2000 and 2010, the total cost of compensation was € 196,200. The level of damage and amount of compensation was increasing from year to year in both forests and correlated with the number of bison. The majority of damage (57 % of cases) was recorded in winter (December–March). Snow depth and temperature did not influence the frequency of damage. The incidences of damage increased with decreasing distance from the woodland patches, therefore, 69 % of cases in Białowieża Forest, and 80 % in Knyszyn Forest were recorded closer than 0.5 km from nearest woodland patch. The majority of the crops damaged by bison were cereals (61 %) but also hay (20 %) and rape (13 %). When compared to the availability of crops, bison strongly selected rape and rye in both regions. This study is the first addressing the increasing problem of human-bison conflict in re-introduced populations and analyzing long-term data on crop depredation. Such situations probably occur in the majority of growing and expanding bison populations, however, it has not yet to be monitored and is rather neglected in post-Soviet countries.