Nimble, withdrawn, and bushy-tailed - the wild cat shares many characteristics with its domesticated descendants.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.