We have spent the beginning of 2017 in Kaluzhskie Zaseki nature reserve, situated about 300 km away from Moscow.
Wisent, or european bison, is a symbol of nature reserve. Kaluzhskie Zaseki is one of the few places where those guys live in the wild without cages. This is a rare and unique case, because after wisent have been nearly driven to extinct after World War I, they mostly live in nurseries and zoos. Local wisents have escaped from the neighbouring Orlovskoe Polesie National Park, where they were living on restricted territory. Here, in Kaluzhskie Zaseki, they live in such a great natural conditions that the females give birth every year instead of once in two years in average.
If you are interested a story of wisent recovery, take a look at the Happy ending story
Here, in this endless forest, you can meet a full pack of eastern-european animals, but you should have a skills of a hunter or professional photographer (which is pretty similar talking about skills) to meet them. Opposite to sea or savannah, in forest you have to seek wild animals for hour, days and sometimes weeks, and it’s even more complicated to make a nice shot.
But wisents are completely different. The thing is these guys feed on bark and branches, which become very tough during cold winter months. When it happens, wisents come to eat from special feeders made by local rangers. Most part of winsent pictures are made near the feeders.
According to ranger’s stories, wild boars were neighbouring wisents on the feeders, but recently boar population decreased dramatically in a result of pig plague. Other local ungulates are not brave enough to share food with the Lord of forest.
During wisents feeding, you can notice multiple kinds of behaviour. Enormous adult males move slowly and proudly, dwarfing females and youngsters, baby wisents drinking mother’s milk, young adults trying to climb up to unawaring females. The life is boiling.
Several times we were lucky to see wisent in a forest, away from the feeder. Just imagine, you stay in the cold snowy forest, eye to eye with the large adult male animal, which is staring at you. Complete silence, you can hear the branches cracking. This moment you can feel a complete unity with nature and this beautiful wild animal.
I would like to end this story with a pictures of Trekol, large low-pressure ATV made on base of legendary UAZ. It looks like this vehicle can pass everywhere, but we were lucky to stuck in the middle of the river:)
Kaluzhskie Zaseki have made a great impression to us. I would like to say a word about a guards of this endless snowy forests, rangers and administration of nature reserve. They are real enthusiasts of their job and absolutely great people. We are very thankful to them.