Fresh camera trap images from Bison Hillock

The reintroduction of bison in the Romanian Țarcu Mountains, which began in 2012 with a partnership between WWF-Romania and Rewilding Europe, is running at full speed, with 20 individuals already roaming freely 200 years after their disappearance from these lands. Through the LIFE Bison project funded by the EU, we aim at creating a viable herd of at least 100 bison in the south-western Carpathians by 2020, with two sub-populations in the Țarcu Mountains and Poiana Ruscă Mountains.

In Romania, bison are currently living in the wild only in one other place apart from the Țarcu Mountains, namely in the Vânători Neamț Nature Park, north-east of the country. At European level, only about 1.450 individuals are still living in the wild, and they are part of 14 isolated populations of which only 5 are viable from a demographic and genetic perspective.

The monitoring of the bison and other wildlife species through camera traps shows us that nature is bursting with life in the Țarcu Mountains which are a natural protected area (Natura 2000 site) and part of the biggest wilderness area in Romania. Alexandru Bulacu, bison expert and local project coordinator said: The images recorded over the last few months are spectacular and we are thrilled with this new confirmation of the biological diversity of this rewilding area.

These images confirm the fact that the relations and interactions between species are following their natural course: bison model the landscape with their grazing behaviour and by feeding on seedlings (as we have foreseen), a lynx manages to hunt a young deer, while a badger, a fox and a wild boar are exploring the area for shelter and food.

The fauna in the Țarcu Mountains represents a live subject matter for anyone who wishes to study or observe nature as an enthusiast or as an expert in nature sciences. WWF and Rewilding Europe together with the local community (represented by the AMZA Association) have already launched ecoturism activities to enable tourists to see the wildlife themselves, while ecology or biology students and alumni from all over the world now have a Research station in the village of Feneș, where they can stay for a set period of time and run concrete research projects.

Nick Huisman, a Dutch student currently staying at the Research station reacted to the images: For my study on bison rewilding I have walked a lot through the forests and fields in the area, but I was only able to catch a glimpse of the wildlife that shares the Bison Hillock with the bison. Luckily the camera traps capture many of these animals on film without disturbing them, and this makes it possible to take a closer look at what is hiding in the forest. Seeing the wild boars sniffing around, deer walking along the paths and foxes stalking their prey is quite something! The diversity of wildlife is so much higher than in The Netherlands, where I come from, and that reminds me every time that the Bison Hillock is a really special place!

Having the camera traps out in the field is like having eyes all over the show. And going through all the images for the first time can be really thrilling. Especially in a place like the Bison Hillock. I remember seeing the first wolf on the camera traps in the area last year. He stood right in front of the camera. It gave me quite a thump to the heart! A mixture of joy and surprise. They prove on a weekly basis how wild the area surrounding the bison really is compared to many places in Europe, especially Germany, where I come from. Wolves, bears, badgers and boars, deer, wildcats and even lynx! It spurs me on seeing these wild animals and being able to watch their undisturbed behaviour. Always looking forward to the next video and hoping for a spectacle like this to play out back at home in Germany some day!, added Georg Messerer, coordinator of activities at the Research station.

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