Exploring Wildlife and Nature in Poland
Poland is a country rich with wildlife, where the vast stretches of wild lands, from the mountains to the lakes, and well-preserved forests, are home to a fascinating array of species, both rare and common. From the imposing, mud clad, wódka inspiring Żubr (European Bison), to the long-legged white bocian stalk (white stalk), and the dwindling, endangered but elegant forest wilk (wild wolf), the animal inhabitants of this nation are as varied as they are interesting, and as culturally symbolic as they are wild.
Let's take a look at some of the iconic Polish animal species, ones that have come to symbolise the character of Poland and it's natural environs.
The Wolf (Wilk)
Poland has been pooled among the few countries left with the correct environment to support populations of wild forest wolves. In 1998 the wilk became a protected species, and since 2001, when scientifically controlled population studies began, the distribution of wolves across Poland has found to be dauntingly sparse. Most reside in the protect forest areas in the East, where the large nature reserves provide enough room to accommodate the requirements of roaming wolf packs. That said, it is thought that with the growth of protected forest areas in Western Poland, packs are begging to resettle where previous industry had forced them out. It is estimated that around 800 wolves currently reside in Poland, most in the forested hills of the Carpathian Mountains.
The Bison (Żubr)
From herbal infused vodka, to light and refreshing Polish beer, the European bison has become herald to some of Poland's most famous beverages. Sadly the species went entirely extinct in the wild from human interference, but has since been reintroduced to its natural habitat in Poland from captivity. Elegant and formidable in equal measure, the żubr now resides in the thick forested areas of the Puszcza Białowieska (Białowieża Forest), one of the world's last remaining primordial forests, sitting on the border lands of Poland and its Eastern neighbour, Belarus. The animal is characterised by a rough fur coating with a large shoulder bulge and stern, short legs; they’re quick and tough, and not to be played with!
The Stalk (Bocian)
In Poland it is believed that a white stalk nesting on a household signifies good luck and prosperity to those who live inside. So it's no wonder that the bocian is one of the nation's most favourite of indigenous animals. Poland boasts the largest nesting population of white stalks, so many in fact that it's said almost one in four of the world's white stalks are a Polish bocian.
The Wild Boar (Dzik)
In Poland wild boars are everywhere. They aren’t revered as luck bringers and don't warrant the same awe-inspiring status that perhaps the endangered wilk or reintroduced bison do, but they are a national treasure nonetheless. There are large numbers of wild boar living in the forest stretches of eastern Poland, where populations are kept in check by controlled hunting expeditions. Today wild boar hunting is a big eco-tourist pull for the region and many people come to Poland's ancient forests to go on boar spotting safari trips.
The Eagle (Orzeł)
Poland is home to the white tailed eagle, a truly fascinating bird with a formidable wingspan and predatory instincts. The eagle can be observed in the wild in many of Poland's national nature reserves. More recently, a number of internet feeds of Eagle sanctuaries have been set up, allowing bird watchers to drop in on Poland's natural habitats and observe the bird whenever they please.