Visent

Visent is the germanic name for the european bison. Bison is the greko-roman name that was predominantly associated with the american bison. The two variants look alike, but the american subspecies is plains-dwelling while the european subspecies is forest-dwelling. There used to be a mountain-dwelling subspecies too, but that has been exterminated by human hunting.

Googling for visent is autocorrected to the first name Vincent. This is really annoying, because it makes it more difficult to find information about the european subspecies. Visents were exterminated in the wild, but have been repopulated from 12 visents that were kept in zoos around the world. Today there are around 3000 visents, with about half of them living wild in Poland.

We used to have visents in Sweden, in Götaland and to a lesser extent in Svealand, but we have killed them all off. The largest Swedish population of visents are in Blekinge in a park where they have around 50 animals. The wild boar was similarly locally exterminated, but has been reintroduced. Wild boars cause big problems when they get into rural areas because they plow up gardens while looking for food in the soil. There have been numerous protests where people want the wild boars gone, but the ones that would remove them would be the hunters, and the hunters want to keep them for sustainable hunting. That is why the wild boar population in Sweden is growing today.

I think it would be really nice if the visent could be reintroduced in the same way that the wild boar was reintroduced. With big game, it is a bigger problem. Moose are already scarce in the south of Sweden because of too high hunting pressure. Visents would probably also be killed off if they were roaming wild. Nevertheless, the reintroduction of wild boar shows that it is possible to do something like this, if the hunting community agrees to let the species reproduce until a sustainable harvest is possible.

The biggest threat a visent could cause is in traffic, where – just like with moose – a collision might lead to death for the people in the car. Other than that, moose are a lot more dangerous than a visent and we allow them to roam freely so why not visents?