Riaño, 16 June 2020 – The first European bison calf is born in the Cantabrian mountains in unprecedented wild conditions, similar to those 12,000 years ago when the bison roamed these mountains freely. The newborn calf was born out of a herd of European bison, introduced one and a half year ago into the Cantabrian Mountains, Northern Spain.
The bison calf was born a few days ago, the first from the female bison Riaño welcomed one and half years ago. These animals have genetic links to the Lowland-Caucasian breeding line. According to the herd manager, the breeding success marks an important milestone in the project.
The project called Valle del Bisonte (valledelbisonte.com) was established with a threefold objective:
• Participate in the European recovery and semi-free breeding programs of the European bison, the largest mammal on our continent, in conditions very close to those of its wild state.
• Establish a meeting point for national and international students and researchers to study the ecological processes related to the presence of large herbivores.
• Promote rural development through guided activities in the area and actively collaborate with tourism companies.
“The bison mother is doing a great job taking care for her calf and feeding it. She instinctively knows what she is doing,” the herd manager said. “We are carefully monitoring from a distance to see if everything’s going well.”
By the beginning of the 20th century, the European bison was on the edge of extinction. All living European bison descend from 12 individuals, who were the only ones remaining in captivity. In Spain, the northern mountains ranges were bison habitat up to 12,000 years ago. The plight of the European bison is a signal to the impact that humankind is having on many thousands of other species across the planet. The project hopes that, by creating new herds, more genetic resiliency and diversity will develop over time.
The Valle del Bisonte foundation cautions that bison, although calm, are wild and unpredictable animals that can reach great speed, especially in rutting situations or when females have calves, so it is the responsibility of the visitor to access the place accompanied of authorized personnel and keep a wide safety distance of at least 50m that guarantees a rewarding and safe experience.
Considering the COVID-19 pandemic and all implications for communities in Spain, the newborn bison represents hope for the future.