The first bison baby has been born in the UK’s ‘wilding’ programme

Kent says three female bison were released in West Blean and Thornden Woods, Kent, in July 2022. The charities hope the animals will act as ‘ecosystem engineers’, helping to restore their natural habitats, increase biodiversity and tackle climate change. Bison engage in certain behaviors, such as cutting down trees, that will reduce the risk of forest flooding, according to Kent.

“Bison herders” working on the project discovered the new addition to the herd in September, the news release said. But they chose not to announce the birth until October to ensure the baby was healthy and out of respect for Queen Elizabeth II’s death.

The birth was a welcome sight to rangers, who were unaware that one of the female bison was pregnant when they were released into the wild.

“Pregnancy in bison is difficult to detect because they naturally hide their calves from predators,” said bison keeper Tom Gibbs. And pregnant bison are often able to travel without negative effects on their health, he added.

“We always expected bison to breed, but it’s fair to say we didn’t anticipate it so soon.”

He added that the rangers team will carefully monitor the health of the mother and the calf, keeping them “as hands-off as possible”.

The calf is already learning bison behavior from the rest of the herd, taking dust baths and playing in the rain, according to the charity.

The UK is not the first country to try to reintroduce European bison. After teetering on the brink of extinction in the 1920s, the species has also been reintroduced in Poland, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia.

The British herd will soon be joined by a male bison from Germany, according to Kent, so more babies could be on the way.