A Cow escaped from a eastern Polish farm in October last year and has now been seen happily living with a bison herd in the Bialowieza Forest on the border between Poland and Belarus. When the story hit the Polish media, it touched people’s hearts, but according to animal experts, the dangers of cross-breeding could both dilute the bison population and lead to problems when the cow gives birth.

Cow escapes domesticity for the wilds of Poland

As reported by Newsline, the cow left its farm late last October and has been found to have been living with a herd of wild bison for the last three months in the ancient Bialowieza Forest, where temperatures can drop to as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

Biologists are surprised over the turn of events, as it is not normal for bison and domestic cattle to live side by side.

Biologists said that while cows, like bison, are natural herd animals, this new relationship is unusual. Biologist Dr. Rafal Kowalczyk monitors the bison herd in the area and said it isn’t the first time a cow has escaped in that area, but this is the first time one has joined up with a bison herd. Kowalczyk told the Polish TV network TVN24 that he believes the bison herd may have saved the cow from attacks by wolves in the area.

While he told the news channel that the cow is not particularly integrated with the herd of bison, due to their natural herding instinct they have accepted her, as she poses no threat to their herd.

Cow poses danger to bison herd

While reaction to the Polish press over the rare relationship has warmed people’s hearts, Kowalczyk warns that the presence of the cow in the bison herd does pose dangers.

Reportedly the cow will soon reach breeding age, which poses two problems. Kowalczyk said breeding is a possibility between the bison and the cow, and this could lead to the pollution of the population with a hybrid calf. The second danger is that interbreeding could endanger the cow herself when giving birth, due to the fact that bison calves tend to be larger.

Conservation programs reintroduced European bison

As noted by the Telegraph, due to hunting in the early in the 20th Century, wild bison became extinct. However, major conservation programs since the 1950s have reintroduced bison to their natural environment in Europe. However, despite this, there are only around 4,600 bison living in Europe and their populations need protection and careful nurturing to survive, leading to concern over the cow joining the herd.

According to the video released by the New York Daily News, biologists are planning to remove the wayward cow from the herd by summer.