Free living European bison population in Belarus


  • Grigorij Yanuta Warsaw University of Life Sciences
  • Daniel Klich Warsaw University of Life Sciences
  • Marek Balcerak Warsaw University of Life Sciences


European bison, Belarus, metapopulation strategy, population development, carrying capacity, optimal numbers


During the establishment of the state of Belarus in 1991, there were already three micropopulations of the European bison. A ‘metapopulation strategy’ for Belarus was proposed to counteract high animal densities. The strategy depended on the creation of 10–12 local groups of European bison (micropopulations) within the territory of Belarus in diverse natural conditions. To reduce negative consequences of isolation, a translocation of individual males between micropopulations at least once 1–2 times per generation was assumed. Originally, the populations were divided into two groups: “the main gene pool” and ‘reserve gene pool’ which depended on the location (protected areas or hunting grounds). For each population optimal numbers of individuals were assessed, but only animals from the ‘reserve gene pool’ could be hunted. Later the strategy was modified, and all animals, regardless the location” were included into a “the main gene pool”. Currently European bison is distributed on the territory of Belarus in 10 separate micropopulations. The realization of metapopulation model allowed to reach high growth rate of European bison population in Belarus. The development of the majority of the population was relatively dynamic, especially in the first period after reintroduction. Currently, five out of ten micropopulations have exceeded assumed optimal number. In two micropopulations the optimal number was exceeded by over 100%. As a result, there is a real risk of population overcrowding, leading to faster disease transmission and damage to agricultural crops. There is a need for implementation of effective mechanisms minimizing the exceeding of the carrying capacity of the European bison population in Belarus.




How to Cite

Yanuta, G., Klich, D., & Balcerak, M. (2021). Free living European bison population in Belarus. European Bison Conservation Newsletter, 13, 57–72. Retrieved from



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