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Bieszczadzki PN arrow Vertebrate fauna

Vertebrate fauna

3. The lynx Felis lynx, previously distributed almost everywhere in the forest zone of Europe, Asia and North America, has been totally exterminated in many countries. In Poland it occurs in low numbers in the Bialowieska and Knyszynska primeval forests and in the Carpathians. It is the largest European feline species. The total length of the body is 80–130 cm, the height at the shoulder ca. 70 cm, and with a weight ranging from 20–30 kg. The lynx is a non-migrating, secretive and solitary animal. The limits of its territory are marked with excrements left in visible places. It establishes its nest in hardly accessible holes in trees, under fallen trees or in rocky crevices. The lynx hunts at dusk and during the night, often from ambushes on tree branches, catching hares, roe deer, red deer fawns, and even adult red deer, young wild boars and foxes. Like the wolf, the lynx is perfect in selecting sick and less able animals. The lynx cubs are born in May or June and become independent after a year. The life span of the lynx is about fourteen years. The number of lynxes in Poland has dropped significantly which is why for several years it has been placed under legal protection (cf. Glowacinski [ed.] 2000).

4. The wildcat Felis silvestris has an appearance similar to an ordinary house cat but is slightly larger. It can also be distinguished from the latter by the tail, which is short, thicker, not-pointed at the end, and with 5-7 black rings. The species was once distributed throughout Europe except for the Scandinavian Peninsula. At present it occurs in Poland only in mountains and remains under protection. The wildcat is a solitary animal maintaining a territory of some 60-70 hectares. It nests in holes in trees, rock crevices or fox burrows, and feeds on rodents, lizards, fish and insects. Sometimes it preys on hares. The population numbers of wildcats in the Bieszczady mountains (as well as in the whole of Poland) is not known. The encounters with this interesting predator are accidental and rare.

5. The red deer Cervus elaphus is, because of its population number, the most important herbivorous mammalian species in the Bieszczady mountains. The ecotype occurring is called the Carpathian red deer. It has a characteristic longer muzzle with a broadened nasal part. The stags weigh 200–250 kg, and the hinds 80–120 kg. Red deer occur in large herds, sometimes several dozen strong. They feed principally on the twigs of trees and shrubs, they also eat a lot of shrublets, forbs, grasses, mosses and lichens. The mating period (rutting) occurs between mid September to mid October. Stags gather harems of hinds, chasing away rivals. The troats and bellows produced by stags can be heard from a considerable distance. The antlers appear in stags in the second year of life. These are single beams of moderate length. Each year, in early spring, the deer shed their antlers, growing new, and more branched ones between May and July. The most branched antlers are those of 10-12-year old stags.

The kind of “breeding” of the red deer which was conducted in the 1970s in the Bieszczady mountains, which consisted of providing intensive supplement to natural food combined with the elimination of predators (the wolf and lynx), resulted in an excessive growth in numbers. The deer caused significant damage to the natural re-growth of tree seedlings in the forests. After 1991, in the Bieszczady forest districts, a major culling of the red deer population was undertaken , cutting its size to the number which warranted the elimination of the browsing damage in the forest re-growth and plantations. The intensity of red deer hunting in the forests districts adjacent to the Bieszczady National Park is decisive importance to the status of the species in the Park, because it is the same population. In addition the deer from the Park descend to forest districts at lower elevations in winter (Glowacinski 1996, Glowacinski [ed.] 2000), and they are hunted there.

The protection and population management of this species in the Bieszczady mountains requires close co-operation between the Park’s management and the State Forest Administration.

6. The wisent (European bison) Bison bonasus is the largest European ungulate. The body mass of an adult bull ranges from 530 to 920 kg, and a cow can weigh from 320 to 540 kg. In the past, wisents inhabited the whole of Europe, while in the 19th century they had only a single refuge i.e. in the Bia³owie¿a primeval forest. During World War I the Bia³owie¿a population was wiped out completely. In the 1920s the restitution of the species began in Poland, using animals bought from zoological gardens. A herd of a mere 16 animals survived World War II in the Bialowieza breeding centre. Since 1952 the animals have been adapted to live in the wild.

In 1963, two bulls, two cows and three young, one-year old bulls of the Caucasian breeding line of wisents, were brought from the breeding centre at Pszczyna to the Bieszczady mountains, and in particular to the Berezki forest district. After one year of acclimatisation these were set free. In 1965 there was much public interest attracted by a bull named Pulpit which endeavoured to undertake a major trip back west. In 1966 the Bieszczady population was again strengthened by new additions. The number of animals in the Bieszczady population continued to increase year by year, as calves were born in the wild. In 1967 the population had 21 animals while in 1984–1985 the number had increased to over 180. The hunting started and in 1984–1988 the annual quota of hunted animals was between 20 and 30 individuals.

At present the overall population number has decreased by half — a portion of the herd has probably moved over the border. The wisent in the Bieszczady mountains requires particular care. Too low population number bears the risk of an abrupt collapse under various risk factors e.g. diseases. In 1993–1995, the wisent population underwent a census for the purposes of the Protection plan for the Bieszczady National Park, both in the Park proper and in its buffer zone; in addition the map showing herd concentrations in winter was drawn (Glowacinski 1996, Glowacinski [ed.] 2000).



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