Avoid These Dangerous Animals in Montana

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A cougar on top of a wooden fence with its mouth agape.

The great outdoors can be filled with peril around every corner. While big skies and beautiful landscapes are plentiful, there are many dangerous animals in Montana. Before heading out for an outdoor adventure, you need to know the dangers. If not, you could find yourself in a critical situation rather quickly.

Today, we’re looking at dangerous animals in Montana and what you can do to avoid them. Let’s dive in!

What Makes a Creature Dangerous?

Animals are dangerous when they can cause harm to humans or their pets. An animal doesn’t have to be deadly to be hazardous. Just because an animal won’t kill you doesn’t mean that a bite or encounter will be pleasant.

How people respond to venoms and other poisons a creature releases will vary. Educate yourself and be aware of any potential risks when hiking or adventuring in an unfamiliar area.

Traveler’s Tip: Read How To Act Around Alligators: Wrong Answers Only for more wild animal safety tips.

What Is the Deadliest Animal in Montana?

In a state with grizzly bears, rattlesnakes, and even scorpions, it may surprise you to learn that deer are the deadliest animal in Montana. Montana residents experience the second most deer-related accidents in the country each year.

A mama deer and her young forage for food in Montana.
It may surprise you to learn that deer are the deadliest animal in Montana.

More than 17,000 accidents happen each year for Montana drivers. The odds of a driver having an encounter and striking a deer are one in 57. That’s pretty wild!

The Most Dangerous Animals in Montana

You need to be aware of many dangerous animals when hiking in Montana. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure when protecting yourself. Let’s take a look!

Grizzly Bears

Grizzly bears and black bears reside in Montana. However, black bears are usually very skittish and will often run away unless they feel you’re threatening their home or cubs.

Grizzly bears aren’t afraid of a fight and are much larger than black bears. When they rear up on their hind legs, they can be more than eight feet tall.

If you’re hiking or adventuring in an area containing bears, make noise when walking, hike in large groups, and stay on the trail. You should always be aware of your surroundings and have bear spray within reach. If you’re camping, secure food and garbage, as bears have a powerful sense of smell. 

A large brown grizzly bear walks near a boulder and a fence in Montana.

Cougars

Cougars, which some know as mountain lions, are often nocturnal creatures and rarely prey on humans. However, they can attack during the middle of the day and will ambush children and small adults. If you encounter a cougar while hiking, you should report the sighting immediately to local wildlife officials.

You can do a few things to stay safe when hiking in areas where cougars are present. First, never walk alone. Cougars are more likely to avoid a large group making noise than a person quietly hiking by themselves.

If you have an encounter with a cougar, do not run. Talk calmly to the cougar and avoid making eye contact. Back away slowly and act aggressively if an attack appears imminent. They may run away from yelling, throwing rocks, or you acting big.

Moose

Moose are docile and impressively large creatures that roam the Montana landscapes. While moose attacks on humans are rare, they do occur.

These attacks are usually the result of humans getting too close when trying to capture their beauty in a picture. A moose may bluff charge or trample a human to protect themselves.

If you encounter a moose and notice it smacking its lips, clicking its teeth, urinating, tossing its head, or pinning its ears back, back away slowly. Should the moose begin to charge at you, run away and quickly find a safe spot.

If you fall to the ground when trying to escape, curl into a ball and use your hands to protect your neck and head. Remain in this position until the moose leaves the vicinity.

A big brown moose with fuzzy antlers stands in a forest.

Bobcats

Bobcats are one of the most common felines, including in Montana. You’ll often find these in grasslands and other areas with dense vegetation.

Bobcats are generally nocturnal creatures but will hunt at any time. While some animals like to travel in packs, the bobcat travels by itself. You’ll rarely see them with partners or in pairs.

Bobcat attacks are rare. However, if a bobcat approaches a human, it’s likely sick or rabid. They will typically do whatever they can to avoid human contact.

If you have a bobcat encounter, don’t make any sudden movements. Back away from the bobcat slowly and avoid running away from it as that may trigger a response. Make a lot of noise and even spray water at it. If the bobcat attacks, do whatever you need to defend yourself.

Wolverine

Wolverines are more common in the state’s western half, and people rarely see them in eastern Montana. These bushy-tailed animals are relatively large, can kill a black bear, and will go down fighting against a grizzly. Despite their bear-like appearance, they’re the largest creature in the weasel family. 

Regardless of what you might have heard, wolverines aren’t usually aggressive unless they’re hungry and you’re messing with their food source. Encounters with wolverines are sporadic. If you encounter a wolverine, keep your distance and avoid acting aggressively. Don’t get between the wolverine and whatever it wants to eat.

The Most Dangerous Reptiles in Montana

You can’t overlook the importance of being aware of the dangerous reptiles in Montana. Here is one snake you shouldn’t ignore!

Western Rattlesnake

If spending time at lower elevations in Montana, there is a good chance rattlesnakes are in the area. It would be best to watch where you’re stepping and putting your hands when in these areas. Despite western rattlesnakes being some of the tamest in the rattlesnake family, you should take precautions when camping or hiking.

If you’re hiking in rattlesnake country, you need to do some things to stay safe. It’s best to use trekking poles while walking. Trekking poles allow you to push back brush and other vegetation where rattlesnakes like to hide.

Rattlesnakes aren’t fans of humans, so sticking to popular trails will reduce your chances of encountering a snake on the trail. We also recommend wearing long, loose-fitting pants or high-top boots to protect your legs and ankles.

A prairie rattlesnake camouflaged against tan rocks and grass are amongst the most dangerous reptiles in Montana.

Keep your eyes open when hiking. The distinct sound of a rattler shaking its tail to warn you can be enough to minimize the encounter. Once you hear the warning from the rattler, freeze in place and locate the snake by the sound.

You should then move slowly away from the snake and keep your distance. Hold a trekking pole or walking stick between you and the snake so the snake will strike it instead of you should it choose to attack.

The Most Dangerous Creepy Crawlies in Montana

You can find some very dangerous creepy crawlies in Montana. They’re easy to miss if you’re not looking for them. Let’s look at a couple of creepy crawlies that roam Montana.

Northern Scorpion

The northern scorpion is the only scorpion found in the entire state of Montana. They typically only appear at night, so you will want to be mindful when crawling into your tent in the evening.

These scorpions often hunt insects. While their venom may not be lethal to humans, reactions can be unpredictable. 

Southern Black Widow

The Southern Black Widow is the only venomous spider in Montana. Black widow babies are white but morph into black bodies and gain a distinctive red mark on their back as they age.

The venom from a black widow spider is 15 times stronger than a rattlesnake and bites almost always require medical attention. Despite rarely being fatal, their neurotoxic venom can result in fatalities if you don’t treat them, especially among small children. 

A black widow clinging to its web in some brush.

Stay Safe in Big Sky Country

Montana’s Big Sky Country is a breathtaking place to explore. However, you want to do so safely to avoid a trip to the ER or hospital. Knowing the potential dangers of an area is crucial.

Carry bear spray and take other protective measures. By keeping yourself safe, you’re also keeping the animals safe. Keep an eye out for these dangerous animals in Montana on your next adventure in Big Sky country!

Have you seen any of the creatures on this list in the wild?

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