The more diverse the woodland structures, the more diverse the inhabitants. They use the rich supply of food plants, hide in the thicket, live in dead trees or seek shelter in the dense canopies. Roe deer, hare, fox, woodpecker and beetles – they all are part of the food network in woodland habitats.
Roe deer is the commonest and most widespread hoofed game species in Austria. Due to its high level of adaptability it can be found both in fields and in high-mountain regions such as the Gesäuse National Park, where it typically occurs in montane to low subalpine areas.
Only the bucks have antlers, which are outgrowths of bone and are shed in late autumn to winter to regrow until the following spring. Does give birth to one or two fawns. The density of roe deer may vary strongly depending on the habitat conditions. Roe deer usually hide in dense young stands, making them very difficult to spot or count.
Red foxes live in burrows they either dig themselves or take over from badgers and leave this often extensive system of tunnels and chambers only by night. A single fox may catch fifteen to twenty mice a day, or thousands of voles or wood mice a year. These rodents may even make up over 50% of its diet. The red fox therefore plays an important role in controlling these extremely reproductive animals which are responsible for severe root and bark damage. Easily accessible food sources also include sick and slow animals, carcasses of animals killed in road accidents and even waste. By doing so, the fox prevents the spread of diseases among its prey. In winter and early spring carrion represents a significant portion of its diet, making it a valuable member of nature's clean-up crew.
Bats are also found in our forests. In the summer, they hide in cracks and loose bark and roost in tree holes. A large number of bats may congregate in caves of the Gesäuse National Park to hibernate. Bats find their way using ultrasound – that is to say that they actually see with their ears!
Many of the 14 confirmed bat species live and hunt in deciduous and mixed woodland. They feed primarily on nocturnal insects which they detect using ultrasound and catch with their sharp teeth.
The capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) is a fascinating and interesting inhabitant of mature forest stands with an open canopy structure. While the cock displays its shining metallic green-blue plumage during the courtship and mating season, the hen is a more subdued brown mottled colour. In the mating season, both sexes have a bright red spot above the eyes, the so-called "roses". The chicks are raised on the ground in well hidden places and feed mainly on ants and other insects. Adults forage blueberries and other wild berries as well as buds, needles and lichen in winter. Capercaillie is very sensitive to changes in its habitat and does not tolerate frequent disturbances.
Rosalia longicorn (Rosalia alpina) is probably the most distinctive and beautiful beetle in the Austrian mountains. The body is about 4 cm long and of a characteristic blue-grey colour with black spots on the wing cases. As in all longicorns, the males can be differentiated from the females by their long antennae, which are significantly longer than the body. The larvae of the Rosalia longicorn develop in dead beech wood and require 2 to 5 years to mature. The adults emerge in the second half of July and can then be seen in sunlit beech stands. The life of this beetle is short, however, ending soon after mating and egg-laying.