MORE THAN 100 BISON WERE COUNTED IN NORTH OSSETIA
Winter bison census is an annual procedure which depends on the actual weather conditions. A trace census is carried out on snow only. The number of the bison, the presence of calves in the family groups, and some cases, the sex of the animals can be determined by the hoof prints on the snow cover.
The census started this January on the territory of the Tseiskiy Sanctuary. This is the very place where WWF-Russia released the first bison from Russian breeding centre and Europe. Then its local population exceeded to no more than 50 individuals. The situation has changed radically in the last 10 years as monitoring data and annual census conducted with the WWF-Russia support indicated. There are 105 bison found in the Tseiskiy Sanctuary, 10 of which are calves under 1-year-old, as for January 2020. This number of young individuals is unusually high as in recent years there were no more than 6 of them. These figures indicate the stability and growth of the population.
A different story can be told in the Turmonskiy Sanctuary in the western part of the Republic. "Because this protected area is located lower than the Tseiskiy Sanctuary, and winters were warm, there was no snow for a long time. Therefore, it was possible to start a bison census only in mid-February. Also, the search for the animals is complicated by the fact that, unlike the bison of the Tseiskiy Sanctuary, there are only ten animals in the Turmonskiy one, but the territory that they can habitat is bigger almost three times», - explains Valery Shmunk, director of Russian Caucasus Ecoregional Office WWF-Russia. It should be reminded that 10 bison were released by WWF-Russia in summer 2018 and there are no other representatives of this species in this territory. All this time the bison have explored the territory, constantly moving. Search and monitoring campaigns will continue.
The obtained data will provide us with reliable information about the number of bison population in the North Ossetia Republic and about the success of the WWF Program for its return to the Caucasus.
WWF-Russia has been working to create a free-living population of bison in the forests of the European part of Russia since 1996. From 1999 to 2002, 57 animals were transported from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland and Belgium. Over the past 10 years, WWF has released 46 bison in the Caucasus on the territory of North Ossetia and Karachay-Cherkessia. Today, the total population of bison in the two republics is 155 purebred individuals.