A cow escaped a farm to live with wild bison, but it could have devastating consequences

Darin Graham@DarinJGraham
Saturday 27 January 2018 12:45
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Picture:(AP/RAFAL KOWALCZYK)

A domesticated cow escaped her farm last Autumn and has been roaming with a herd of wild bison ever since, but her winter adventure must end soon.

Spotted in a Poland forest by ornithologist Adam Zbyryt in November 2017, the cow was seen wandering with about 50 bison on the Belarusian border.

Speaking to TVN24 news last year, Mr Zbyryt said:

It's not unusual to see bison near the Bialowieza Forest, but one animal caught my eye. It was a completely different light-brown shade from the rest of the herd. Bison are chestnut or dark brown.

Mr Zbyryt went on to explain how he assumed the cow would eventually return home as she was just a calf back then.

But biologist and bison expert Rafal Kowalcyzk reportedly spotted the cow again this week and said she seemed to be in good condition and was able to keep up with the bison.

He told AP:

Thick fur common to her breed and the mild winter in eastern Poland so far this year have also helped her.

But Mr Kowalczyk, who is also the director of the Mammal Research Institute at the Polish Academy of Sciences warned that a cow living among bison could be dangerous to both species.

The cow 'chose freedom' roaming with a group of bison in Poland. Picture:(Rafal Kowalczyk/AP)

If the cow gets pregnant after mating with a male bison, she could die because the hybrid calf would be bigger than a normal cow calf.

And the offspring could likely disrupt the genetics of the small and endangered bison population in Poland - a lot of work went into restoring them after they faced extinction following the First World War.

Mr Kowalczyk, went on to say that the cow is still too young to breed but that it looks like her winter adventure may come to an end soon. She must be recaptured before spring, to prevent the risk of mating.

He said:

One question is whether when winter ends the cow will follow the bison into the forest, which is not the habitat that this cow knows.

The more time she spends in the herd, the riskier it will be.

HT IFL Science

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