The first wild bison to be seen in Germany for 250 years has been shot dead – just a day after it was spotted near a river.
A passerby saw the European bison as it was grazing next to the river Oder, close to the eastern German town of Lebus, on the border with Poland.
But the next day, an official ruled that the protected animal was a danger to the public and ordered hunters to shoot it.
The World Wildlife Fund has filed charges against the official – head of a public order office in Brandenburg – warning that it is a ‘criminal offence’ to give permission to shoot a ‘strongly protected animal’ if it is not presenting a ‘clear potential threat’.
Chris Heinrich, a WWF board member, said: ‘After more than 250 years a wild bison had been spotted again in Germany and all the authorities could think to do is shoot it.’
The authorities were made aware of the bison’s presence on Wednesday.
But by Thursday, the head of the local public order office had ruled that the animal had to be killed to protect local residents. Two local hunters were then instructed to kill it.
Polish officials say the bison was likely to have been a bull seen running around Ujście Warty National Park on the German-Polish border.
They believed it then managed to find its way to Germany, making it the first one seen in the wild in 250 years.
European bison are not known to be dangerous and hundreds roam in the wild in neighbouring Poland.
Brandenburg’s Environment Ministry said a tranquiliser dart administered by a vet could have been used to avoid any danger to the local population.