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On the Wild Cats' Trail

Austria's northernmost national park is so peaceful that even the rare wild cat decided to settle in its thick forests. After decades of extinction, the elusive cats returned to the Thaya valley.

Nimble, withdrawn, and bushy-tailed - the wild cat shares many characteristics with its domesticated descendants. It was believed extinct in Austria for decades, until 2007, when rangers identified it in Lower Austria’s Thayatal National Park.

Wild cats avoid interaction with humans and generally shroud themselves in mystery. They resemble regular house cats, but outdo them in size and skittishness. This combination makes them hard to spot, tricky to tell apart from their close relatives, and almost impossible to control. The staff of Austria’s northernmost national park welcomes the challenge and is proud to count the elusive creatures amongst the inhabitants of their remote forest.

Identifying the Thayatal’s wild cats was itself a feat. You might get lucky and see one zoom through the underbrush, but how can you know it's not a stray domesticated tabby. If a real one does run across your path, you’d better be careful: Wild cats live up to their name, especially if they happen to have young. As a result, park rangers had to get creative to confirm the wild cats’ return. They set up wooden poles that the animals would rub up against, leaving their hair behind. Like suspects in a crime novel, the cats’ fur was submitted for DNA testing to determine their species.

Herbstliches Thayatal © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Herbstliches Thayatal © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart

National Parks in Austria

  • Wild cat © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Wild cat © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Wild cat © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Wild cat © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Nationalpark Thayatal in Lower Austria © Nationalpark Thayatal / Rainer Mirau Nationalpark Thayatal in Lower Austria © Nationalpark Thayatal / Rainer Mirau
  • Fog in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Fog in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Parasol mushroom © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Parasol mushroom © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Riverbanks in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek Riverbanks in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek
  • The Thaya river © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek The Thaya river © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek
  • Morning in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Morning in the Thaya valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • The town of Hardegg © Nationalpark Thayatal The town of Hardegg © Nationalpark Thayatal

A total of three wild cats live in the Thayatal Nation Park. You can observe two of them, Frieda and Carlo, at close quarters in the national park’s enclosure. What’s striking is their thick coat and bushy tail that make them look at once familiar and exotic. Even more fascinating is the fact that even after having lived in the enclosure for all these years, Frieda and Carlo cannot be tamed – they remain wild all their lives. Of course the cats are willing to be fed, much to the pleasure and excitement of visitors. A real wild cat wants to hunt its prey itself, so rangers conceal bits and pieces of food in different places around the 4,800 sq. ft. enclosure. When Frieda and Carlo go off in search of food, they display all their elegance and grace.

The peaceful Thaya valley boasts more than one rare animal species. There’s the turquoise and bright green lizard which scuttles away at the sound of the slightest movement. It’s even said that crayfish live in the cold water of the Thaya river and sometimes you can catch a glimpse of an otter. Of course, two-legged visitors will find the national park just as welcoming.

Eichenwald Nationalpark Thayatal Waldviertel © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Eichenwald Nationalpark Thayatal Waldviertel © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart

Nature Parks in Austria

  • Otter in Thaya Valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Otter in Thaya Valley © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Green Lizard © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Green Lizard © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Green lizard © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart Green lizard © Nationalpark Thayatal / D. Manhart
  • Spotted woodpecker © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek Spotted woodpecker © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek
  • Black stork © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek Black stork © Nationalpark Thayatal / Neffe Marek
  • Crayfish © Nationalpark Thayatal / M. Graf Crayfish © Nationalpark Thayatal / M. Graf

Contact

Nationalpark Thayatal

Nationalparkhaus
2082 Hardegg

Telephone: +43 (0) 2949/ 70 050
Fax: +43 (0) 2949/ 70 05 50

Nationalpark Thayatal

Nationalparkhaus
2082 Hardegg

Telephone: +43 (0) 2949/ 70 050
Fax: +43 (0) 2949/ 70 05 50

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