SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

NATURE

Seven hazards to avoid when you’re outside in Austria

Nature in Austria can be deceptively dangerous. Here's The Local's handy guide to surviving the great outdoors when you live in Austria.

Seven hazards to avoid when you're outside in Austria
Two wild boar cubs (Sus scrofa) are pictured on October 11, 2008 in the Lainzer Tiergarten, a 25 square kms growth forest west of Vienna that was constituted more than 200 years ago under Empress Maria Theresa of Austria and her son Josef II. Every year more than 500,000 people walk in the forest and watch free wild animals. The forest is also used for hunting, mostly by wardens and wealthy guests. AFP PHOTO/DIETER NAGL (Photo by DIETER NAGL / AFP)

Austria is a beautiful Alpine state, famous for its majestic mountains, stunning lakes, picture perfect meadows and nature in all its abundance. However, even the Garden of Eden had a resident snake.

There are more than a few dangers you should be aware of before strapping on your hiking boots and heading into the great outdoors. 

You could be chased by a boar, bitten by a tick, accidentally eat something poisonous or get an itchy rash from a caterpillar every time you step outside. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Wild boar

The British ambassador to Austria was chased by a rampaging wild boar a few years ago while out walking in the Vienna woods in the city’s Lainzer Tiergarten.

Writing in his blog, Leigh Turner said he suddenly found himself face-to-face with a group of “four or five hulking adults and countless piglets”. 

He tried to walk away quietly but then said he heard a noise behind him like a “galloping horse” and turned to see a “massive wild boar”, head down, charging straight at him.

Mr Turner tried to climb a pile of tree trunks to escape, and hurt his hand. 

It could have been worse, a man in Berlin had his laptop stolen by a wild boar last year and made headlines around the world while chasing after it naked.

Ticks

Tiny little ticks may be among the most dangerous animals you will encounter living in Austria. It’s important to be vaccinated against tick borne encephalitis if you live here, especially if you enjoy hiking and being in the outdoors.

According to media reports a record of 215 illnesses and three deaths from this disease was set in 2020.

Lyme disease is also a risk factor in much of the country. A recent study found a third of the country’s ticks are infected with borrelia, the bacteria which causes Lyme disease.

Lyme disease is easily treated if caught soon after infection, but becomes more serious if left untreated.  Time to stock up on tick repellent and invest in some long trousers before heading out into the wilderness.

Another thing to bear in mind is you should wait two weeks to be given the TBE vaccine if you have had a coronavirus vaccination, according to Austria’s National Vaccination Committee

READ MORE: A promising treatment for Lyme disease

Caterpillars

Many of Vienna’s parks had to be closed last year due to an infestation of Eichenprozessionsspinner, or oak processionary moth caterpillars.

The caterpillars are covered in tiny hairs which can break off and cause itching, skin rashes and breathing difficulties.

You can find out more here (German language link), or here

Wild Garlic

A popular pastime in Austria is going into the woods to hunt for wild garlic (Barlauch), which is used in recipes for soup, pesto, bread and even wild garlic chicken Kiev.

However, what some people may not realise is that wild garlic is very similar in appearance to Lily of the Valley (Maiglockchen), which is poisonous.

The smell should help you differentiate between the two, otherwise this helpful guide (German) or this one (English) will steer you in the right direction.

Mushrooms 

Foraging for mushrooms is also a popular pastime in almost every province of Austria, as they grow in abundance everywhere. Particularly prized are Eierschwammerl (Chanterelles) or Steinpilze (Ceps or Porcini). However, it’s important not to pick the wrong kind. Of the 8,800 known species of mushrooms in Austria, which incidentally do not belong to either the kingdom of animals or plants, there are only 100 species which are edible.

You can read more about the code of conduct for mushroom pickers here or a guide on how to do it properly here. And remember the first rule of foraging: When in doubt, leave it out. 

Wolves

Wolves have returned to Austria in recent years. In 2016 the first Austrian wolf pack was established in Allentsteig, a military training ground in Lower Austria. The Wilderness Society reports a second one has been found at the Austrian-Czech border near Karlstift. 

According to the BBC Earth website, while hundreds of years ago wolves in Europe roamed around attacking child shepherds, as rabies has been largely eliminated and children are no longer put to work looking after sheep, they pose far less risk to humans today. 

Bears

Brown bears can also be found in Austria. An EU report found the possibility of accidents involving bears “cannot be eliminated” though they are very rare.

Read more: Italian bears return to Austria’s woods in force

According to the report there are bear populations in the Northern Limestone Alps, descended from three bears released by the WWF in the early 1990s and in the Karawanken along the border of Carinthia and Slovenia.

Read more: Farmer attacked by a bear in Salzburg

Lynx have been reintroduced to Austria (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

Lynx 

There are now a handful of lynx (Luchs) living in Austria, according to the Wilderness Society. They were reintroduced from Switzerland in 2011 after dying out 100 years ago.

There are differing views on how dangerous lynx are to humans. While the Lynx society says they pose no danger to humans, in Britain, the National Farmers Union warned they might attack members of the public if re-introduced to the wild, according to a report in the English Telegraph newspaper.

The lynx is a large cat with fluffy ears and a pointy beard, sometimes called the wizard of the forest. Lynx are rarely seen, and live in wild, mountainous forests away from humans, such as in the remote forests of the border regions of  Styria, Upper and Lower Austria.

A new Lynx  long-distance hiking trail through this area was recently created from Reichraming in Upper Austria via Styria to Lunz am See in the Mostviertel in Lower Austria.

German vocabulary

Ticks – Zecken 

Tick bourne encephalitis –  Zeckenenzephalitis / Frühsommermeningoenzephalitis (FSME)

Lyme disease – Die Lyme-Borreliose 

Wild Boar – Wildschweine

Lynx – Luchs

Bear – Bär 

Wolf – Wolf

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

ANALYSIS: Is Vienna in good hands with ‘crisis manager’ mayor Ludwig?

No Austrian politician has become more disputed and exposed to the public than Michael Ludwig, the mayor of Vienna. But as his political opponents grow could the city's so-called "crisis manager" yet come out on top?

ANALYSIS: Is Vienna in good hands with 'crisis manager' mayor Ludwig?

‘Pandemic not over’

“Once again I’d like to stress that the pandemic isn’t over,” Michael Ludwig tweeted in September 2021. “The pandemic is not over yet. We are staying on the safe side,” he posted end of May 2022. Like a mantra the city governor would also repeat this statement at the SPÖ Vienna State Party Conference on 28 May 2022, where Ludwig was confirmed as the capital’s federal leader with 94.4% of all delegates.

His most fervent supporters – close party members and Austria’s SPÖ chief Pamela Rendi-Wagner, a trained epidemiologist – keep applauding what Ludwig in his own words calls “the Viennese way”: a path that is supposed to be totally different from the national approach in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. And a path that has involved much stricter measures than in the rest of Austria and Europe: mandatory PCR tests at public outdoor pools for six-year-olds, for instance, or guest registration and “2G” restrictions (only admission to vaccinated persons and those who have recovered from a COVID infection) in Viennese hotels and restaurants.

READ ALSO: ‘The pandemic is not over’: Vienna keeps mask rule in public transport

All these measures were strongly criticised by some economic representatives and ÖVP politicians in particular. They have now been lifted, although FFP2 face masks still need to be used on all public transport in Vienna. Such measures still outrage an increasing number of social media users who blame Ludwig for keeping the health crisis alive to consolidate his power.

In an interview, former Minister of Tourism Elisabeth Köstinger accused the Viennese government of harming Austria’s hospitality and tourism sectors in the long run with its strict Corona policy. Indeed, the capital was hit much more badly than the other eight provinces, with almost 57% fewer hotel bookings than in 2019. Köstinger also questioned the efficiency of Vienna’s testing strategy in relation to high infection numbers.

But what do the Austrians think of Michael Ludwig, who ranges among the ÖVP-Green government’s toughest opponents? According to a survey by the Linz Market Institute, Vienna’s mayor would have been re-elected by more than 50%. This survey, however, was carried out beginning of 2022, before a series of scandals and crises started to tarnish Ludwig’s reputation as a trustworthy “crisis manager”.

An image made of concrete

Just a few days after the poll was published, activists revealed a monument in front of Vienna’s city hall: a concrete image of Michael Ludwig as a clear sign of protest against his climate and environmental policy. Protesters (many of them from the “Fridays for Future” movement and Greenpeace) turned out in force as the mayor insisted on building a highway and a tunnel that was supposed to cross the Lobau, a nature reserve at the Danube. Ludwig remained unimpressed. Like in the Corona crisis, the governor wants to rely on his own team of experts, emphasising that there are no feasible alternatives. Meanwhile, parts of the SPÖ’s base are openly opposing the governor’s hardline policy.

In social media, the number of Ludwig’s critics currently far exceeds his supporters and those in favour of his cautious and considerate “Viennese way”. With the ongoing war in Ukraine and an alarming inflation in Austria, this trend doesn’t seem to be reversed.

Many Austrians have started to wonder why the SPÖ was calling for national incentives to reduce rising costs of living while Vienna’s governor hadn’t offered solutions to bring down rising electricity, heating and housing expenses. One poster in the “Standard” forum also asks why the mayor, who “couldn’t be fast enough to give a press conference right after the federal government had finished their consultations,” was then making himself scarce. Only this week did Ludwig announce any measures to counter rising energy costs.

Is Ludwig able to manage future crises?

In the Austrian capital, the Social Democrats are still perceived as an open-minded and social party standing up for equal rights and opportunities. Members of ethnic minorities and the LGTBQ community feel safe with the SPÖ-run city government. This perception hasn’t changed since Michael Ludwig came into office in May 2018. However, some may now disagree after the governor’s friendly meeting with Turkey’s disputed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul this month.

The Austrian daily “Der Standard” called the consultation a “diplomatic dilemma”, while the reactions of the Kurdish minority and online posters were far less diplomatic. “Is he just overestimating himself by giving cynical, somewhat provincial signals to potential AKP (Erdogan) voters in Vienna, or is it something else?” sociologist Kenan Güngör wonders. One poster suspects that Ludwig’s main motivations for this trip were to gain Austro-Turkish voters, outperform Chancellor Karl Nehammer (who visited Russian President Putin) and prepare himself for leading the federal SPÖ one day.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Austria’s new finance measures could benefit you

With the rising inflation, many Austrians have lost faith in politicians who keep struggling to find efficient solutions against increasing prices and living expenses.

Soon after the federal government announced “climate bonus” payouts of up to 500 Euros per household this year, Michael Ludwig finally also promised an “energy bonus” of 200 Euros for more than 650,000 Viennese households. Will this suffice to calm an array of opponents and voters who have already turned their backs on the SPÖ?

It may, in the end, depend on the solutions Ludwig and his party are going to offer and communicate to the public. One thing is for sure though: The rhetoric of a permanent state of crisis alone isn’t going to be enough anymore.

SHOW COMMENTS