Conservationists are expressing outrage after an official in Germany ordered hunters to shoot the first wild bison seen in the country in more than two centuries. Calling the killing a criminal offense, the World Wildlife Fund says it will file charges against the official who gave the order, the Local reports. “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," says Chris Heinrich, a WWF board member. The bison was seen by the river Oder near the eastern town of Lebus on Wednesday. Thinking the beast was a threat to public safety, a local official sent a pair of hunters to take care of it. It was unclear if any of them knew the European bison is classed as a "vulnerable" species and on Germany’s list of "strongly protected animals."
The victim was likely a bull that had wandered across the border from Poland from its home in a national park. While they may be the continent's largest land mammals, weighing up to 2,200 pounds, the bison are not considered dangerous. If they were, says the local environmental minister, then "half of Poland, where the animal is a national symbol, would have to be declared a danger zone." Hunted to near extinction in Europe in the early 20th century, the bison are making a comeback thanks to conservationists, with more than 1,200 now roaming around Poland, per the Telegraph, which published a video showing bison fleeing, then standing up to, a pack of wolves. (The US bison is the country's first national mammal.)