BLEAN WOODS, England (Reuters) – Conservationists in England are looking for the country’s first ever rangers to look after European bison, Europe’s largest land mammal, which is being introduced to Kent more than 15,000 years after its ancestors roamed the landscape.
Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust are bringing a small herd of the animals to Blean Woods near Canterbury in Kent, the south-eastern county known as the Garden of England, to help naturally manage the habitat.
“These will be the first bison rangers in the UK probably ever,” said Stan Smith, wilder landscapes manager at Kent Wildlife Trust. “We’ve never had European Bison here in the past.”
The ideal applicant would need to understand animal behaviour, he said, but they were not expected to have worked with bison before, “because you can’t until now”.
The bison, which will come from the Netherlands, Romania or Poland, will be kept in a near wild state, he said, helping to manage the woodland by their unique ability to fell trees by rubbing up against them and eating the bark, creating space for other species to thrive.
“They are ecosystem engineers, they can manage habitats in a way no other animals can,” he said.
“They will be in our woodland with other species like Exmoor ponies, longhorn cows and iron age pigs.”
Vicki Breakell, conservation officer at the Wildwood Trust, said steppe bison were native to Britain until about 15,000 to 18,000 years ago when they became extinct.
“The European bison is the closet living relative to what was here historically,” she said.
The bison will live in a semi-wild state in a fenced area of the 500 hectare site, she said, adding that roaming bison were not a possibility in the crowded south-east corner of England.
If not a stampede, there has certainly been a rush of applicants for the two jobs.
“We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of applications,” Smith said. “We’ve had loads of creative applications… people seem to be really really excited by this idea.”
(Writing by Paul Sandle, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)