The staff of the Kaluzhskie Zaseki Reserve counted 303 bison during the first winter census of 2020 within the protected area. These include adult animals and 58 calves born in 2020. Thirteen more animals were observed in the adjacent territory.
Specialists conduct animal counts every winter, skiing and driving tens of kilometers of the protected area on snowmobiles. Scientists study the traces of the bison, figure out the intricacies of their daily travels, and places of rest. Visual count, when the animals are directly in the field of view of a census taker, are carried out at the feeding areas, where the bison come every day. Data from the reserve's camera traps is also used.
In winter, separate small groups of the bison often come together. The employees of the Kaluzhskie Zaseki Reserve note that all animals are in excellent physical shape – they are well-fed, active, follow their leaders and carefully guard the calves. In 2020, 58 calves were born in the reserve, all of them are healthy, playful and are spending the winter with their parents. The calves under one year old continue to feed on mother's milk and stay near their mothers in herd conditions for up to 3-4 years. The fact that the female bison in the reserve bring calves annually speaks of favorable conditions for these animals.
With the onset of winter, the employees of the Kaluzhskie Zaseki Reserve maintain more than ten feeding grounds for the bison, where oats and hay, and sometimes juicy vegetable feed, are regularly supplied from the end of autumn and throughout the winter season. Each forest giant eats about 6 kg of oats in one day! In addition, salt lick is delivered to the salt lick holders, which is specially designed for animals and does not dissolve from rain and snow. Feeding the bison in winter is the most important part of maintaining a free bison herd. It is carried out in all reserves of the European part of Russia, where there are bison.
The charity project "Give the Bison a Winter" provides all possible assistance. Everyone, whether it is an individual, a family, a group of friends, a commercial company or a public organization, can help the bison reserves and national parks with money or simply by purchasing and bringing oats, carrots or apples for the bison. You can read about these charity projects on the sites of the bison Protected Areas of Russia.
The results of the first preliminary winter bison census in Kaluzhskie Zaseki will become known in late February-early March: the scientists are carefully checking the first data, conducting regular route patrols and exploring the territory from a bird's eye view using quadcopters.
Let us remind you: The group of bison inhabiting the Kaluzhskie Zaseki Reserve is a part of the free population of bison in the European part of Russia, the restoration of which began about 30 years ago. The program for the conservation and restoration of bison is successfully operating in Russia. Within the framework of this program, the young bison were transported from the Bison Breeding Center of the Prioksko-Terrasny Reserve, the Oksky Reserve and the breeding centers of many European countries to nature reserves and national parks on the border of the Oryol, Kaluga and Bryansk regions, and released into the wild. Today in Russia there are more than one and a half thousand bison, and their number continues to grow rapidly. The free populations of bison live in the national parks "Orlovskoe Polesie", "Ugra", "Smolenskoe Poozerie" and the reserves "Kaluzhskie Zaseki", "Bryansk Forest".
On December 10, 2020, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) changed its protected status for bison. Now, on the IUCN Red List, bison has the status of “Near Threatened” spices instead of “Vulnerable” species. This means that thanks to the efforts of nature conservation organizations, breeding centers and specially protected natural areas, bison have moved one step further from the brink of extinction. Now, in terms of status, they are on par with their fellow American bison. According to the annual census, in 2019 there were already 8.5 thousand bison on the planet, of which more than 6 thousand live in the wild. For example, there are now about 31 thousand wild bison in North America. This is an amazing result, especially if you remember that less than a hundred years have passed since the almost complete extermination of the European wood bison and that all living bison descend from only twelve animals that were preserved in zoos at the beginning of the 20th century.