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Feeding habits Print

Bison, as all ruminants, are adapted to take in various form of plant food. In their front stomachs, and especially in their grand rumen, the capacity of which can exceed 100 litres for adult animals, fermentation processes take place in an endless cycle, therefore it is necessary to provide fresh food all the time. This is closely reflected in the daily activity cycle of these animals. Intensive feeding before the sun rise allows bison to quickly fill in the large, five chamber stomach after the night pause. Next, bison lay down to rest and ruminate the previously collected food. Such cycles are repeated several times a day. Under the natural conditions, feeding takes approximately 50 – 80% of their time, from the sun rise to sun set. Feeding intensity depends on the season of the year. In early spring, bison feed especially intensively to quickly recuperate the food shortage in terms of quality and quantity.  This is further facilitated by the occurrence of young, juicy plants and lack of bothersome insects.

The number of plant species consumed by bison is very large, though the basic diet is composed by several dozen plants occurring in the area in large quantity, making them simple to come by. The basic bison food is comprised of the forest floor plants, while the tree origin food (shoots and bark) is only a diet supplement. 8 species of trees and 2 species of bushes are stripped from bark:  most commonly it is oak, hornbeam and ash. Bark stripping accelerates at the turn of winter and spring, where there is shortage of undergrowth plants. bison are least selective among all plant eating animals living in the Bia這wie瘸 Forest. It can however only exist in the forest providing abundance of food at various periods of the year. Forest differentiation is critical. It is possible to encounter bison feeding on undergrowth in pine and spruce forests, mixed forests with the share of deciduous trees, deciduous forests as well as dump forests – e.g. alder swamps. Depending on the environmental conditions, bison can adjust their feeding habits. bison eagerly feed on meadows and areas created by tree cutting. Only meadows covered uniformly with high sedges with sharp leaves are avoided by bison. At spring and late autumn time, bison also venture to feed on farming fields. This is especially frequently done by old bulls, which are very hard to frighten off from the fields rich in tasty food.

A herd migrates looping for feeding grounds, following experienced females and never stays at the same place for a long period of time. Even after the passage of a bison herd with several dozen of specimens, the damage to the undergrowth is very limited. Such a way of feeding assures rapid replenishment of the natural resources.

Bison, as all ruminants, are adapted to take
in various form of plant food.
Photograph by J. Walencik

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