A long line of
rangers & hunters
Karl Mitterhauser is probably not cut out for an office job. Happily, he became a ranger & hunter instead. Since the Mitterhausers have looked after woods and wildlife for twelve generations, anything else would have been almost inconceivable. The family memoirs even speak of adventurous stag hunts with the Austrian Kaiser Franz-Josef. Karl Mitterhauser followed the family tradition and has been a passionate ranger and hunter for more than 30 years.
KARL MITTERHAUSER'S TERRITORY
Karl Mitterhauser’s territory covers about 8500 hectares in western Austria. It extends from the floor of the Zillertal valley right up to 3000 m above sea level. But the wild animals look after the mountain peaks anyway, he jokes. There used to be six rangers and a forestry office here; now Karl Mitterhauser looks after the woods and wildlife almost alone. But not quite, because Alpine Dachsbracke ‘Bessy’ helps her master wherever she can.
THE DAILY TIMBER HARVEST
The ranger & hunter enjoys working in and with nature. But we have to earn money too, he says, so timber is harvested every day. Everyone has a house, everyone needs furniture, says Karl Mitterhauser. He supervises the felling and removal of trees to the factories, and looks after forest hygiene by removing fallen trees and branches. Otherwise bark beetles proliferate, says Karl Mitterhauser, and then you have a big problem.
THE HUNTER AND HIS WILDLIFE
Hunting is also part of the job for Karl Mitterhauser. In summer he monitors the wildlife stock; when the snow falls he sees the animals are fed. In the old days the stags and deer moved to warmer regions in winter. Today, tourism and traffic have severed those alpine trails and the animals have to stay in the cold westerly region instead. The animals would starve to death when the snow is two metres deep, the ranger & hunter explains. That’s why we feed them hay in winter.
A CHANGING PROFESSION
On Karl Mitterhauser’s territory people harvest timber, farm, tend alpine pastures and look after wild animals. But Austria’s Zillertal also has tourism, ski slopes and a leisure industry. The ranger & hunter says you always have to find a consensus between different interest groups. That’s part of the job these days, and so is keeping pace with new technology. The job is changing all the time, says Karl Mitterhauser, you have to move with the times.
PLANTING FOR GENERATIONS
What Karl Mitterhauser enjoys most about his job is planting young trees – spruce, larch, stone-pine, and fir trees in some low-lying areas – after mature trees are felled. Laying the foundation for the next 150 years can be somewhat awe-inspiring, the ranger & hunter admits. And who knows? If the family tradition continues, perhaps one day his great-grandchildren will fell the trees he planted today.