Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg: The Bison Will Roam Free
A small herd of European bison will soon be released in Germany's most densely populated state, the first time in nearly three centuries that these bison — known as wisents — will roam freely in Western Europe.
The project is the brainchild of Prince Richard of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg. He owns more than 30,000 acres, much of it covered in Norwegian spruce and beech trees in North Rhine-Westphalia.
For the 78-year-old logging magnate, the planned April release of the bull, five cows and two calves will fulfill a decade-old dream.
But the aristocrat's neighbors aren't all thrilled about his plan to release wisents, which have been living in an enclosure on his property for three years. They are slightly taller than their American cousins and weigh up to a ton. Questions remain about who will foot the bill if the European bison damage property or injure someone.
"We were skeptical because we weren't given enough information," says Helmut Dreisbach, a cattle farmer and vice chairman of the Farmers' Association of Siegen-Wittgenstein. "How will the animals react? Will they stay in a particular area or will they move onto working farmland?"