Published: 09:21, 13 January 2021
| Updated: 13:20, 14 January 2021
A unique job opportunity has emerged for the first time in the UK as part of a groundbreaking scheme to reintroduce Europe’s biggest mammal to the Kent countryside.
From February next year, new bison rangers will look after a herd of the wild beasts when they make Blean Woods, outside Canterbury, their home.
Fences are set to soon be installed around a 500-acre site to the west of Canterbury Road as preparations are made for the animals’ much-anticipated arrival - including the creation of two new exciting jobs.
The Wildwood Trust and Kent Wildlife Trust, which are masterminding the £1.1 million scheme, are advertising for two ranger roles.
Suited for nature and animal lovers, the £27,000-per-year positions will revolve around day-to-day care of the bison, studying their behaviour and leading foot safaris for visitors.
The two successful applicants, who must have experience with livestock, will head over to the Netherlands for several months on a training programme.
Once fully trained, they will become the main carers for the 6ft creatures as they attempt to give them an “as wild a life as possible”.
Paul Whitfield, director general at Wildwood, says the herd will start off being between four and six animals in size.
“We haven’t decided on an exact number yet,” he said. “They will be breeding when they’re over here so those numbers will increase pretty quickly.
“There are a whole load of legal and licensing issues we’re ploughing through at the minute and we’re on track with preparations.
“The fencing will go up in the next 12 months. I’ve got a meeting next week to see what fencing it will actually be, and then it will be a hefty job to install.
“The bison are set to arrive in February 2022, so the next year is all about getting everything ready, and the ranger job is an incredibly exciting part of that.
“Part of the goal of the project is to use it as a demonstration to show how it works. We really want to show that ‘if you’re going to do a bison project, this is how you’re meant to do it’.
“There are already people elsewhere looking at us and thinking it would be great thing to do.
“We thankfully managed to secure the funding just before Covid so we haven’t been too affected by it.”
The last wild European bison are thought to have been shot dead in Poland in 1919. By 1927, the only members of the species left were kept in captivity.
None of the public paths at Blean Woods will be removed as a result of the work, and bison - which are peaceful creatures - will not be on public areas.
Viewing points will be dotted along the edge of the perimeter, giving passers-by the opportunity to safely observe the grazing animals.
Stan Smith, wilder landscapes manager at Kent Wildlife Trust, said: “This is a first step to European bison becoming more frequent tools for the restoration of ecosystems in Britain and for two individuals to get to know these animals like no other.
"While we are not expecting applicants to have significant experience with bison, this will be a demanding role requiring excellent ecological knowledge, deep understanding of animal behaviour and a passion to tell others about these incredible animals.”
The posts will be for a fixed term of 24 months, with the possibility of an extension. The job application states that a firearms licence is desirable.
To apply, visit kentwildlifetrust.org.uk before February 7.