Montana is located north of Wyoming and situated just below the southern border of Canada. Much of the state of Montana is sparsely populated with people, but it has a diverse array of common native wildlife, including the rarest mammal in North America, the Black-footed Ferret. The state is home to over 100 other species of mammals as well, ranging in size from tiny rodents to huge predators. There are also some 440 different bird species, dozens of reptile and amphibian species, and plenty of wild game animals.
Montana has a few strange native species that may be surprising to find so far north, such as the Pygmy Rabbit, the Northern Scorpion, and the Rubber Boa. Its diversity is due in part to its unusual climate, which varies widely across the state due to its topography and proximity to the Pacific Ocean and Canada.
The Official State Animals of Montana
Because it is less populated than most other states, Montana is rich in wildlife and has several state animals.
The Official State Animal of Montana: Grizzly Bear
The Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) was given the honor of the official state animal and mammal in 1983. Over 55,000 students assisted in helping choose the state animal, and the Grizzly Bear was the winner out of 74 total mammals, including the Elk, which came in second.
Grizzlies once roamed the open plains of Montana, but as more humans began to settle on the land, the bears moved to more heavily forested regions, though some can still be spotted in more sparsely inhabited meadows.
The Official State Bird of Montana: Western Meadowlark
Montana’s state bird, adopted in 1931, is the Western Meadowlark. Though it may seem strange, these beautiful black, white, and bright yellow birds are part of a subfamily of the blackbird. It is said that Meriweather Lewis was the first to describe this bird in writing, calling it similar to the eastern variety, but with a “richer and more varied” song.
Western Meadowlarks are one of the most popular state birds in the midwest, sharing the honor with Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Wyoming, as well as Oregon. These vibrant birds are a rare sight in Montana backyards, preferring to build their homes in the wild meadows and grasslands.
The Official State Fish of Montana: Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout
The Blackspotted Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki) became the official state fish in 1977. This native Montana species is also sometimes called Yellowstone cutthroat trout or the west slope cutthroat trout. It was chosen because it requires a quality habitat to survive, just as the people of Montana desire a certain quality and way of life.
Where To Find The Top Wild Animals in Montana
All across Montana the climate changes due to its geography and topography. Because of this, at different locations, you may see birds, rodents, bison, ticks, elk, bighorn sheep, grizzly bears, lynx, moose, wolverines, coyotes, wolves, or even beavers, badgers, porcupines, otters, mink, and bats. The best place to see them is by visiting the many parks and reserves.
Some of the best parks for viewing wildlife are:
- Glacier National Park – Located in Glacier County in western Montana, this is the best place to go if you want to see a variety of animal types.
- Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park – Found in southeast Montana, this is a sanctuary for prairie dogs.
- Ninepipe National Wildlife Refuge – Running along the Mission mountain range, this is the best place for viewing waterfowl in Montana.
- Wild Horse Island – This island in the middle of Flathead Lake, as the name implies, is a good viewing place for wild horses.
- Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center – This nonprofit rescue is an excellent place to view and learn about its namesake predators.
Zoos in Montana
- ZooMontana – Billings, MT
- Montana Grizzly Encounter – Bozeman, MT
- Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary – Red Lodge, MT
The Most Dangerous Animals In Montana Today
The state of Montana is number one in animal-related deaths, according to the Center for Disease Control. Many of the animals that cause those deaths are not even predators, but large creatures whose migratory patterns overlap with local roads, leading to many traffic accidents.
- Grizzly Bear – Though they are ferocious and can be deadly when they attack, bear attacks are among the rarest animal attacks in Montana.
- Western Rattlesnake – Though they mostly prey on rodents and small mammals, their bite can be fatal to humans. Montana is home to 10 different snakes, but the western rattlesnake is the only venomous species in the state.
- Deer – While it may seem strange for these mostly gentle creatures to make the list, more than one in 60 people are estimated to experience a deer-related car accident in Montana, the second highest such rate in the whole country.
- Black Widow Spiders – These arachnids are responsible for about seven human deaths per year.
The Largest Animal in Montana
The moose is the largest antlered animal in the world, as well as the largest creature in the state of Montana. They can weigh anywhere between 800 and 1,300 lbs at their full size and stand about 7 ft tall. Moose love the water and are known to submerge themselves for up to 3 minutes and swim for several miles.
Their size may be intimidating, but these herbivorous animals are typically no cause for alarm. Unless they are harassed or experiencing intense hunger or exhaustion, moose are mostly docile and calm, regardless it is advisable to keep a respectful distance if you encounter one of these giants in the wild.
Endangered Animals In Montana
In the state of Montana, all of the following species are listed as threatened or endangered:
- Black-footed Ferret – It probably comes as little surprise that the rarest mammal in the whole of North America is endangered.
- Whooping Crane – These feathered predators are the tallest bird in North America, and migrate through Montana each year in smaller numbers.
- Pallid Sturgeon – These large prehistoric fish, alive in the time of dinosaurs, are found in the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers, but their numbers are dwindling.
- White Sturgeon – These fish are predators, once commonly found feeding on smaller fish and crustaceans in the Kootenai River Basin, their only known habitat in the state.
- Grizzly Bear – Yes, even the state animal has a status of threatened. Human encroachment and habitat loss are the biggest threats to grizzlies.
Montana’s Rarest Animal
Also known as prairie dog hunters or American polecats, the black-footed ferret is the rarest animal in Montana, as well as being the most endangered mammal in the entire United States.
An outbreak of sylvatic plague and steady declines in the wild population of the prairie dogs that serve as these creatures’ primary food source reduced the number of black-footed ferrets to a point where they were declared completely extinct in 1979. However, just two years later a small population was discovered in Wyoming, and through consequent conservation efforts, there are now an estimated 350 individuals in the wild.
Native Plants in Montana
The wild ecosystems of Montana are host to a myriad of unique plant species, and many are native to the state. You’ll find species of each plant type in Montana (trees, shrubs, ferns, grasses, etc.). Some native plants in Montana include ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and box elder.
Largest Mule Deer Ever Caught
The largest mule deer ever caught in Montana was 207 7/8 inches. The carcass is now owned by the MT Dept. of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and a hunter’s name is not disclosed because it was considered evidence illegally poached.
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Montanan Animals List
- Admiral Butterfly
- Beewolf wasp
- Bull Trout
- Cinnamon Bear
- Common Yellowthroat
- Green Snake
- Kokanee Salmon
- Milk Snake
- Orb Weaver
- Polyphemus Moth
- Rainbow Grasshopper (Dactylotum bicolor)
- Rat Snakes
- Smallmouth Bass
- Smokybrown Cockroach
- Swallowtail Butterfly
- Tiger Trout
- Tree Cricket
- Tyrannosaurus Rex
- Uinta Ground Squirrel
- White Sturgeon
- Yellowish Cuckoo Bumblebee (formerly Fernald’s Cuckoo Bumblebee)
Animals in Montana FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
What kind of animals are in Montana?
Montana is full of wild mammals like rodents, bears, and deer. Predators like wolves and coyotes are also common. Birds, fish, and assorted other wildlife are plentiful.
How many species of animals are in Montana?
Counting mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians, there are over 550 species of land animals in Montana. There are approximately 90 species of fish.
What spiders live in Montana?
Montana is home to a number of spiders including the red-backed jumping spider, forest wolf spider, mouse spider, and western black widow.
What dangerous animals live in Montana?
There are several fierce predators common to Montana, including wolves, grizzly bears, and rattlesnakes.. Of these, none are very likely to encounter and attack a human, but all can be deadly when it happens.
What is the most dangerous animal in Montana?
Deer are actually the most dangerous animal found in Montana because of the number of motor vehicle accidents they cause. This happens more in Montana than almost any other state.