April 16, 2016

Wisent breeding habitat starts tenth year

The Kraansvlak project, a breeding habitat for European bison born in Dutch nature, starts its tenth year on the 24th of April. More than 20 calves have been born since the start in 2007. Besides a ‘nursery’, Kraansvlak is also known for its scientific research. Scientific studies and the natural growth of the herd are main objectives for project partners PWN and ARK Nature. Kraansvlak is a unique area in Europe: the only nature reserve where a naturally grazing herd of European bison can be studied in the wild, and where additional feeding by humans is not done. The reserve is open for public. People can visit the bison area via the Bison Trail, a special walkway (open from September to the first of March).

The breeding habitat

All the newborn calves from the Kraansvlak are recorded in the European bison register, which is kept and maintained in Poland. Most calves are still located in the reserve, but some have been relocated. To Spain in 2015 for example, to bring new genes into two existing bison herds. And also closer to home, to the Maashorst nature reserve. The Maashorst is since March 2016 the second Dutch nature reserve with European bison. Recently, another bison project started at the Veluwe, with European bison from Germany.


Recent years dozens of students have studied the bison in Kraansvlak. ARK and PWN actively share and publish the latest insights and scientific results. The European bison is an endangered species and much about this animal is still unknown or based on assumptions. Experiences and scientific knowledge gained in the Kraansvlak project helps new national (Maashorst and Veluwe) and international projects in their startup phase.


To inform the public about the European bison, promotion takes place in the nearby Kennemerduinen visitor centre in Overveen. There, people can witness the story of Podryw. Podryw was the Polish ancestor of the Kraansvlak-herd. After his death in 2015, Podryw was preserved for display and visitors can admire him up close. Through a 3D-animation ‘the virtual world of the wisent’, visitors of all ages learn about the life, history and grazing patterns of the European bison. It also gives insight into the coexistence of the European bison with humans and other animals like the Konik horse.

Bison Trail

For those who feel like experiencing the great outdoors: in 2012 the Kraansvlak opened a walkway for people to hike through the western part of the Wisent habitat. This is outside the breeding season, from September to March. People can walk this path with great chances to encounter the herd and other wildlife. Information signs are placed at both access points of the trail. These signs include information about the project, it’s main objectives and the guidelines for using the walkway. For example, it warns visitors to keep a distance of approximately 50 meters between them and the herd. Field excursions with a forest ranger are also optional.


For more information on the European bison and field excursions in Kraansvlak check out this site. For information on the other bison projects in the Netherlands visit www.allemaalmaashorst.nl and www.wisentopdeveluwe.nl.



Wisenten in the water. Photo: Ruud Maaskant