Norwegian hunter shoots endangered bison

  • 2007-01-31
  • By Arturas Racas
VILNIUS - It's not every day one spots a bison - the biggest land mammal in Europe - in Lithuanian forests, as there are only some 45 of them strolling around. Yet on Jan. 28, a Norwegian hunter shot one under the impression that it was another animal. The shot not only killed the animal, which is a close relative of bison indigenous to North America, but also emptied the hunter's wallet.

"Henning Karl Evensen was fined with 5,550 litas (1,607 euros) for damages to the environment and had to pay another 1,000 litas for violating hunting regulations," Kazys Mikalauskas, head of Kedainiai's regional environmental protection agency, told The Baltic Times.
"The fine would have been much bigger if the bison, which was female, had been a mother to young. But apparently there was not yet a family," Mikalauskas said.

Evenson shot the bison during a commercial hunt in a forest near Kedainiai, central Lithuania. Environmentalists say there are some 20 - 25 bison, which are listed in the Lithuanian Red Book of endangered species, in the area.
Mikalauskas believes that the fatal shot was an accident.
"The hunter saw the bison when it was belly-deep in water and thought it was a boar. We found no evidence not to believe him," he said.

According to Mikalauskas, this is the first time anyone has shot a bison during his two decades at the environmental protection agency. "Our only solace may be that he was not a Lithuanian hunter," he said.
He stressed that bison are non-aggressive animals and pose no danger.
"When workers came to remove the dead animal, a male bison was following them the entire way. He looked so sad… like a human," Mikalauskas said with a trembling voice.

Bison were a common sight in Eastern European forests at the beginning of the 20th Century, but the destruction of World War I and poaching have driven them into near extinction.
The species were reintroduced in several countries after WWII and today some 3,500 live in Europe. Bison were first brought Lithuania in 1969 from neighboring Belarus.