An image of a killed Caucasian bison from E. Demidoff's book 'Hunting Trips in The Caucasus' (1889)
The Caucasian wisent (Bison bonasus caucasicus) was a subspecies of European bison that inhabited the Caucasus Mountains of Eastern Europe.
Decline and Extinction
In the 17th century, the Caucasian wisent still populated a large area of the Western Caucasus. After that human settlement in the mountains intensified and the range of the Caucasian wisent became reduced to about one tenth of its original range at the end of the 19th century. In the 1860s the population numbered still about 2000, but was reduced to only 500-600 in 1917, and only 50 in 1921. Local poaching continued; in 1927, the three last Caucasian bison were killed.
Only one Caucasian bison bull is known to have been in captivity. This bull, named Kaukasus, was born in the Caucasus Mountains in 1907 and brought to Germany in 1908 where he lived until 26 February 1925. While in captivity, he bred with cows from the lowland subspecies Bison bonasus bonasus. Thus, he became one of the twelve ancestors of the present Caucasian–lowland breeding line of the European wisent pedigree book.
Wisent reintroductions in the Caucasus
In 1940, a group of wisent-American bison hybrids were released into the Caucasian Biosphere Reserve and later in 1959 in the Nalchik Forestry Game Management Unit (Kabardino-Balkariya). Later some pure-blood wisent of the lowland-Caucasian breeding line were released there to form a single mixed herd together with the hybrids. In 2000, these hybrids were described as a different (although questionable) subspecies, the highland bison Bison bonasus montanus.