A List of the Endangered Species of Montana

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

Montana state flag
Montana state flag / liangpv via Istock

Montana is located in the United States of America and is also known as the “Treasure State.”

The state is called so because of its natural beauty, diverse wildlife, and abundant natural mineral resources.

It falls under the eight mountain states and has an area of 147,040 square miles (380,800 km²), making it the fourth-largest and the largest landlocked state.

Generally, all of Montana’s names are a testament to its vast landscape.

Montana comes from the Spanish word, montaña, meaning mountain.

Montana – Western USA, Summer, Mountain, Famous Place, Grinnell Lake | HaizhanZheng via iStock

Indeed, mountains are a feature of Montana’s landscape, but 60% of Montana’s area is grasslands and prairies.

Because of its landscape diversity, Montana is home to many animals.

More than 100 mammal species, ranging in size from tiny mice to enormous predators, are found in the state.

The state is also home to about 427 distinct birds, several reptile and amphibian species, and various wild game animals.

Despite the abundance of wildlife in the area, some animals that take refuge in Montana’s vast landscape face endangerment.

This article will focus on some endangered species in the region of Montana.

Keep reading to discover more about these animals and the threats they face.

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5. Black-Footed Ferret

Black-footed Ferret
Black-footed Ferret | Mariomassone via Wikipedia Public Domain

The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes), the American polecat, or the prairie dog hunter, is a small and endangered mammal native to North America.

Given that some of the last remaining populations of this animal are in Montana, the black-footed ferret conservation is essential in the state.

The species once inhabited most of the Great Plains region of North America, but today their numbers have dwindled to the point where they are considered one of the rarest mammals in the world.

Black-footed ferrets are known for their distinctive black feet for digging burrows and hunting prey.

Aside from their paws, these animals have black outlines on their ears, faces, and tails.

Although their legs help them dig, they are short, stout, and fur-covered.

Black-footed ferret performing a weasel war dance
Black-footed ferret performing a weasel war dance | Mariomassone via Wikipedia Public Domain

Black-footed ferrets are small and usually weigh between 1.43–3.09 pounds.

Males are as long as 21 inches, but females are at least 10% shorter.

The black-footed ferret is a carnivorous animal that feeds primarily on prairie dogs.

Unfortunately, due to disease, habitat degradation, and other factors, prairie dog populations have substantially decreased in recent years.

Because they rely heavily on prairie dogs for survival, black-footed ferret numbers have been severely harmed by this.

In Montana, efforts are underway to protect and conserve the black-footed ferret.

One of the most crucial conservation programs is the Black-Footed Ferret Recovery Program, a joint effort of several conservation organizations.

4. Swift Fox

Swift Fox Hunting Stealthily on the prairies
Swift Fox Hunting Stealthily on the prairies | Layne vanRhijn via iStock

The swift fox, scientifically known as Vulpes velox, is a small fox species native to North America.

Deserts and short-grass grasslands are the primary habitats of this species.

Due to attempts to reduce predators, it almost went extinct in the 1930s but was later successfully reintroduced.

Although classified under “Least Concern” in some areas, Montana’s swift foxes face endangerment threats.

These foxes are called swift foxes because of their extraordinary speed and agility.

Their color is a dark, grayish brown transitioning to a yellowish tan down their flanks and legs.

Males and females are similar in appearance, although males weigh more (usually between five and seven pounds), and both sexes are around 12 inches in height and 31 inches long.

Swift fox taking a nap
Swift fox taking a nap | Kilarin via Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

Swift foxes, which live in the state’s prairie areas, have a sizable population in Montana.

These foxes favor open grasslands and places with little vegetation because they can find the cover to hunt and hide from raptors there.

They have keen senses, including excellent vision and hearing, which allow them to detect prey and avoid danger.

However, habitat loss and fragmentation brought on by human activities like farming, oil and gas drilling, and urbanization have led to a decline in the swift fox population in Montana.

Swift foxes are also susceptible to illnesses like rabies and distemper, which can obliterate entire populations.

3. Wolverine

Wolverine situated on top of a rocky terrain
Wolverine situated on top of a rocky terrain | Image via Wikipedia Public Domain

The largest terrestrial member of the Mustelidae family, the wolverine (Gulo gulo), is also known as the glutton, quickhatch, or carcajou.

The wolverine is a solitary animal known to inhabit remote and rugged terrain, making it challenging for researchers to study its behavior and ecology.

Due to its low population density, susceptibility to habitat fragmentation, and vulnerability to climate change, the wolverine is a species of concern in Montana.

Adult wolverines typically weigh as much as average-sized dogs, between 24-40 pounds in males and 18-26 pounds in females.

However, there are sightings of males weighing as much as 71 pounds.

These animals have rounded heads and ears and strong limbs.

Wolverine with a prey in Finland
Wolverine with a prey in Finland | kallerna via Wikipedia Public Domain

Their fur is dark, oily, and thick, making them hydrophobic.

The wolverine is a resilient animal that can survive in harsh and extreme environments.

It inhabits the mountainous regions of Montana, preferring dense forests, alpine meadows, and subalpine zones.

The wolverine is a solitary animal rarely seen in the wild. It faces threats from hunting and human activities.

Despite its fierce reputation, the wolverine faces numerous threats to its survival, including habitat loss, hunting, and climate change.

To safeguard the wolverine, the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks has limited trapping, hunting, and research techniques that cause the animals as little disturbance as possible.

2. Grizzly Bear

Portrait of a wild grizzly bear
Portrait of a wild grizzly bear | Jean Beaufort via Wikipedia CC0

North America’s largest land predator, grizzly bears, are brown bear subspecies with the scientific name Ursus arctos horribilis.

Despite having a broader range in the past, these bears are now confined to certain US states, including Montana.

Montana’s grizzly bear population is estimated to be around 1,000 bears, making it one of the largest populations in the continental United States.

Although these bears are not endangered, they still face some threats.

The size of grizzly bears depends on location and access to food, but they are among the largest brown bear subspecies.

Fully retracted claws of a Grizzly Bear
Fully retracted claws of a Grizzly Bear | Pierre5018 via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

Typically, males weigh over 800 pounds, while females average just over 400 pounds.

Grizzly bears have brown fur with darker legs and frequently white or blond tipped on the flank and back, despite their varied color range from blond to nearly black.

As Montana’s population grows, more people are moving into grizzly bear habitats, leading to increased encounters between bears and humans.

These developments can lead to conflicts between bears and humans, resulting in property damage and even human injury or death of humans and bears.

However, Montana has a bear management program, including monitoring bear populations, relocating problem bears, and occasionally removing bears that threaten human safety.

1. Canada Lynx

Canada lynx
Canada lynx | Michael Zahra via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

The Canada lynx, also known as the Canadian lynx, is a medium-sized wild cat species found in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska and certain parts of the contiguous United States, including Montana.

In Montana, the Canada lynx inhabits the state’s mountain regions and dense forests.

Despite not facing endangerment, they face several threats.

The Canada lynx is a medium-sized cat with long fur, triangular ears, black tufts at the tips, and broad, snowshoe-like paws.

Like bobcats, these cats also have longer hindlimbs than forelimbs.

A Canada lynx stalking its prey
A Canada lynx stalking its prey | Erwin Bauer et al. via Wikipedia Public Domain

The species has sexual dimorphism, with males larger than females.

The average male weighs between 13 and 37 pounds, while females average 11 to 26 pounds.

Due to their solitary and elusive nature, Canada lynx are hard to study in the wild.

One of the primary threats these cats face in Montana is habitat loss, as most of their inhabited forests get cleared for development and roads.

Another threat to these animals in Montana is climate change.

As temperatures rise and snowfall becomes less predictable, snowshoe hare populations may decline, making it more difficult for the lynx to find food.


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