Are There Mountain Lions In Montana? Everything You Need To Know

Mountain Lions In Montana

Mountain lions (unlike their bigger African cousins) are some of the shyest and most elusive big cats in the world. They don’t prowl around in the open for us to admire them. Theoretically, yes, we know that they live in the western states of the US in great numbers. But practically, we’d be hard-pressed to see them even if we went looking. 

But do they reside in Montana? Let’s find out!

Are There Mountain Lions In Montana?

According to Montana wildlife experts, there are native mountain lions living in the state of Montana.

In fact, they’re a thriving population in the state to the point that they’re seen as a ‘game’ animal. Funnily enough, some of the people who are most invested in the lion conservation program are lion hunters themselves. It should be a strange concept, right? But it isn’t really.

A healthy ecology needs a healthy number of predators. There can’t be too few lions (because then the deer would eat up all the vegetation). There can’t be too many (because then the lions would eat up all the deer). 

We need the lions to keep the deer in check and the hunters to keep the lions in check. Easy. Who’s got the responsibility of figuring out the ideal numbers for all these animals? Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

How Many Mountain Lions Are In Montana?

Numbers like that can be hard to calculate. After all, the mountain lions are both nocturnal and pretty wary of humans. They won’t strut around in front of us. Fitting them all with radio collars would be a very expensive and time-consuming mission. 

FWP did some complicated statistics to guess the number of mountain lions in the area. Given the amount of land available and the amount of land a lion needs for its territory, they decided there were 2,409 adult mountain lions in Montana. 

That’s a pretty specific number, right? But that’s just two regions – the Northwest and West Central. The other regions don’t have official estimates yet.

Where Do Mountain Lions Live In Montana?

Mountain Lions In Montana

Montana’s mountain lions prefer to stick to the western and central portions of the state, which have mountains and thick vegetation. Mountain lions hunt by stealth so they need cover. 

Being out on open ground wouldn’t suit them at all and they’re positively allergic to human habitation. Steep canyons and thick forests where they can stalk deer are their favorite haunts. 

Now, with an increase in population, we’re beginning to see more mountain lions in the east. But it’s still quite rare. Young males searching for more territory would rather venture into Idaho or Oregon to the west of Montana.

How Big Is a Montana Mountain Lion?

Mountain lions might not be the biggest of big cats (for example: they don’t compare to the tiger or the African lion). But they’re pretty strong and powerful in their own right. Grown males can weigh up to 150 pounds or more (and exceptional cases turn out to be even bigger). Females are smaller at around 100 pounds. 

Two fascinating facts about the mountain lion? One, they can be over 2 meters in length but about half of this is just their long tail. And two, they increase in size closer to the poles and decrease in size the closer they get to the equators. Why? There’s added fur and fat to keep them warm in the frigid climates.

Also, Check Our Guide On Mountain Lions In the U.S.

How Common Are Mountain Lions in Montana?

Mountain lions are pretty common in the western regions of Montana. This doesn’t mean that we can see them regularly. Not unless we’re actively hunting or searching for them. They’ve got pretty large numbers in the state but they’re still loners at heart. And it’s hard to spot a solitary cat slinking around the woods.

Their numbers are growing and thriving in Montana which is great news for us. They’ve survived bounty hunters, urban development, and loss of habitats over the last few centuries. It really displays their survival instincts and we should be proud that they’re now roaming around in greater numbers than before.

Can You Kill a Mountain Lion In Montana?

Mountain lions are ‘game’ animals in Montana – there’s an official hunting season for them and there’s a limit on the number of lions you can hunt. Both as a resident of Montana and a non-resident, you’re allowed to hunt the mountain lion. 

Montana actually has an excess of mountain lions and wants to raise the limit over the next few years. For now, about 100 mountain lions are hunted every year. This doesn’t include lions that are killed in road accidents.

What To Do If You See a Mountain Lion In Montana?

Mountain Lions In Montana

Unless you’re actively hunting them, you’re pretty unlikely to see a mountain lion. They can hear you coming from a long way off and tend to avoid the loud and noisy human beings. They even avoid each other if they can!

If you do see one, you should remember that it’s just as scared as you are. Running away from it won’t help because it’s faster than you and might chase you down. Standing straight, keeping eye contact, and speaking in a loud and firm voice is a better bet. The lion’s likely to get disturbed by the ruckus and move away. 

If you’ve got children or pets with you, they’re more likely to be a target. It’s best to pick them up and hold them in your arms. If you’re planning on hiking alone, better carry pepper spray as a last resort. But know that mountain lion attacks are rare.

What Other Big Cats Are In Montana?

The only big cats found in Montana are mountain lions. Jaguars, which are the only other type of big cat found in the Americas, only live in certain corners of Arizona. They’re practically extinct in the United States.

Other kinds of wild cats found in Montana are the bobcat and the Canada lynx. If you see them from a distance, you might be tricked into thinking you’re spotting the mountain lion. But they’re both much smaller. They’re just as secretive as the mountain lion and just as likely to stay away from you. 

Also, Read About Mountain Lions in Missouri


And that was everything about the mountain lion in Montana. I hope this article answers all your questions.

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