Białowieża: the bison

The alarm sounds quarter past four. It is still dark outside.
I sneak quietly out of the house to meet Joanna in front of the tourist office. Joanna has promised to show me bison and I’m not sure if it is polite to tell her that I already saw a bison on my own yesterday.
First we aim into the darkness with a night vision device. Then the sun rises and the bison appear. First two solitary ones and then a group of five. All males. In order to see them one has to hopefully drive between the villages and forest patches to and fro. We also see a herd of females and calves but they run away into the forest quickly. Two males on the other hand stand on the other side of the birch trees and stare at us with suspicion. Very big animals.
Some bison are bolder with humans than others. It is not sensible to try to go very close and some animals lose their nerve at some point and they walk away.
According to the latest count there are 770 bison in Poland and much less on the Belorussian side. There they are also hunted. The Polish feed the animals during winter to keep them away from farmers’ corn.
We also spot three roe deer, some kind of buzzard, black woodpecker and scrabble marks and excrement of a wolf.
Joanna says about the forest dispute that the government really planned to cut extensive areas just outside the park because of bark beetle but the threat of a fine made them stop. Also forest outside the park is partly protected under UNESCO and now nobody dares to cut anything anymore. The discussion if forest is timber of ecosystem is actively held also in Poland. There are many fans of massive planting and tidying the forest.
We receive information that the reserve where we were supposed to go tomorrow will be closed until the end of the week. I get back a pile of Polish cash that I have no use for. I also have to be ready to hurry home to help to check people on the border.
I stroll around in the forest some more and go to the guest house to sleep.
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