10 of the Most Deadly Animals Found in Montana: Montana’s Fearsome Fauna

Noel Massey



Montana is a beautiful state, known for its stunning landscapes from the Rocky Mountains to the Great Plains, but it is also home to some of the most deadly animals in North America.

Let’s check out the 10 most dangerous animals living in the “Last Best Place.”

Key Takeaways

  • Wolves, grizzly bears, and mountain lions top the list as some of the most formidable predators in the state.
  • Even less assuming animals like elk, moose, and bison can pose significant risks, especially during mating seasons or when they feel threatened.
  • Smaller creatures, such as bobcats and the venomous black widow spider, prove that danger in Montana’s wilderness isn’t limited to size.

10. Wolves (Canis lupus)

wolf in the forest in Montana

The howl of a wolf is a sound that captures the essence of Montana’s wilderness. Encounters with humans are rare, but it’s still important to be aware of their presence and potential danger.

Did you know? A wolf’s jaw has a crushing power of nearly 1500 pounds per square inch, and they can eat up to 20 pounds of meat in one meal.  Wolves can swim up to 8 miles and howl can be heard up to 10 km away

Habitat and Behavior

Wolves are pack animals that live in Montana’s forests and open meadows. Their diet primarily consists of large ungulates, such as deer and elk, but they’re also known to eat smaller animals and even fish.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Pack hunters – Wolves hunt in packs, using coordinated strategies to take down larger prey.
  • Territorial nature – While human attacks are rare, wolves can become aggressive if they perceive a threat to their pack or territory.
  • Powerful jaws – A wolf’s bite is extremely strong, allowing it to crush bones and swiftly incapacitate their prey.

9. Wolverine (Gulo gulo)

This robust and elusive creature is often recognized by its stocky build, thick fur, and distinct facial markings. While sightings in the contiguous United States are rare, wolverines are a prominent figure in the cold northern regions.

Did you know? Wolverines are known for their incredible physical endurance, with the ability to travel long distances in short periods, such as moving up to 40 miles in a day

Habitat and Behavior

Wolverines favor cold, remote terrains, often seen in alpine meadows, boreal forests, and Arctic tundras. They are solitary animals with vast territories, known for their strength and endurance, often traveling long distances in search of food.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Tenacious predators – Despite their relatively small size, wolverines have been known to take down prey much larger than themselves and even steal food from larger predators like bears or wolves.
  • Adaptable survivalists – With their dense fur and specialized metabolism, wolverines can survive in harsh, frigid environments, making them one of the most resilient creatures of the north.
  • Sense of smell – Their olfactory abilities are so sharp that wolverines can detect prey buried beneath the snow, making them efficient scavengers during winter months.

8. Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)

Grizzly Bear in the forest

Synonymous with the wilderness of Montana, the grizzly bear is both revered and feared. These massive creatures are symbols of the wild frontier but can be deadly when provoked.

Did you know? Grizzlies can run at speeds up to 30 mph, have a keen sense of smell, and are capable of turning excess urea into protein during hibernation. Female grizzlies can live up to 26 years and will nurse their cubs for up to 3 years.

Habitat and Behavior

Grizzly bears have a diverse diet, ranging from berries and plants to fish and larger mammals. They inhabit a variety of terrains but are often found near rivers during salmon spawning seasons.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Imposing size – Grizzlies can weigh up to 800 pounds and stand at a height of 8 feet when on their hind legs.
  • Unpredictable behavior – While they are generally not aggressive unless provoked, they can attack if they feel threatened, especially mothers with cubs.
  • Powerful predators – Equipped with sharp claws and a strong bite force, a grizzly can take down large mammals with ease.

7. Elk (Cervus canadensis)

elk in montana

They are majestic and a popular sight for wildlife enthusiasts, but they can pose a threat if they feel threatened or during their mating season.

Did you know? They have a four-chamber stomach that aids in digestion, and they consume around 4 to 7 kg of food daily. Males are called bulls, females are called cows, and newborns are called calves. A group of elk is referred to as a herd or a gang

Habitat and Behavior

Elk are social animals, often seen in herds, and inhabit a range of environments from forests to open plains. Their diet consists of grasses, plants, and bark.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Large size – Bull elks can weigh up to 1,000 pounds.
  • Aggressive during rut – Male elk become particularly aggressive during the mating season and can charge with little warning.
  • Sharp antlers – Bull elk have large, sharp antlers that they use during fights and can inflict severe injuries.

6. Moose (Alces alces)

Moose in forest in Montana

They may appear gentle and somewhat clumsy, but moose are among the largest and most unpredictable wild animals in Montana. Their massive size combined with their temper can make for a dangerous combination.

Habitat and Behavior

Moose are typically found near bodies of water, such as lakes, ponds, and streams, where they feed on aquatic vegetation. They are also known to consume shrubs and young trees, making them frequent visitors to forested areas.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Size and strength – Standing over 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weighing up to 1,500 pounds, moose are formidable animals.
  • Mating season – Male moose, known as bulls, can become very aggressive during the fall mating season.
  • Protective mothers – Similar to bears, female moose are extremely protective of their calves and can charge if they perceive a threat.

5. Bobcats (Lynx rufus)

They might be smaller compared to some of Montana’s other predators, but don’t let their size fool you. These solitary hunters are incredibly agile and equipped with sharp teeth and claws.

Did you know? They can leap up to 12 feet to catch prey and have been observed taking down larger animals like young deer. These felines are about twice the size of a house cat and can run at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Habitat and Behavior

Bobcats are solitary creatures, marking and defending territories that can range from one to several square miles. They are most active during dawn and dusk, known as crepuscular animals, and can be spotted in various habitats, including forests, swamps, and suburban areas.

Why are they dangerous?

  • Stealthy hunters – Bobcats are skilled hunters, often ambushing their prey from a hidden vantage point.
  • Sharp claws and teeth –They usually target smaller animals, but bobcats can defend themselves fiercely when threatened.
  • Territorial Disputes – Bobcats can become aggressive if another animal or human enters their marked territory.

4. Golden Eagles (Aquila chrysaetos)

Golden Eagles on tree in Montana

They are not traditionally seen as dangerous to humans, but golden eagles have the power and precision that pose a threat, especially to smaller animals and unsuspecting prey.

Did you know? Golden Eagles engage in fascinating behaviors like sky-dancing, where they perform a rapid series of wing beats while soaring, and pendulum flight, where they dive, rise, and retrace their path.

Habitat and Behavior

Golden eagles are commonly found in mountains and open terrains. With a wingspan that can reach over 7 feet, they are adept hunters, preying on animals ranging from rabbits to young deer.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Impressive talons – Their sharp talons can exert a grip pressure of over 400 pounds per square inch.
  • Precision in flight – Golden eagles can dive at speeds of up to 150 mph to catch their prey.
  • Protective parents – Like many wild animals, golden eagles can become aggressive when defending their nests and chicks.

3. Black Widow Spider (Latrodectus hesperus)

Black Widow Spider in Montana

Size truly doesn’t matter when it comes to the black widow spider, one of North America’s most venomous arachnids. With venom far more potent than that of a rattlesnake, they remind us that danger in Montana can come in very small packages.

Did you know? Female Black Widow Spiders are more dangerous than males, with larger venomous glands and longer fangs. They have a body size that can be up to 20 times larger than males.

Habitat and Appearance

Found throughout Montana, black widows prefer dark, secluded spots. They can often be discovered in woodpiles, under rocks, or in seldom-disturbed storage areas. These spiders are usually shiny black, and females sport the renowned red hourglass shape on the underside of their abdomen.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Potent venom – A black widow’s venom is said to be 15 times more potent than that of a rattlesnake, affecting the nervous system of its victim.
  • Stealthy nature – Due to their preference for dark, quiet places, accidental human encounters can happen when reaching into areas where the spider resides.
  • Painful bites –Though death from a black widow bite is rare, the bite can cause intense pain, muscle rigidity, and other symptoms requiring medical attention.

2. Bison (Bison bison)

Bison in Montana

Bison are an iconic symbol of the American West. They wander across Montana’s plains in groups, usually calm but can be unexpectedly wild. Their size and speed are a reminder of the untamed nature of the wilderness. Respect their space, and they’ll respect yours—usually.

Did you know? Bison calves are nicknamed “red dogs” due to their orange-red color at birth, which changes to dark brown within a few months.

Habitat and Behavior

Bison primarily graze the plains of Montana, living in herds and following a migratory pattern. These massive animals can weigh over a ton and can run at speeds up to 35 mph. Though they appear calm, bison can become aggressive if they feel threatened.

Why Are They Dangerous?

  • Imposing size – The sheer weight and size of bison mean they can inflict severe injuries with ease.
  • Unpredictable behavior – Despite their often peaceful demeanor, bison can charge without much warning.
  • Territorial nature – Especially during the rutting season, male bison can be particularly aggressive.

1. Mountain Lions (Puma concolor)

Mountain Lions in Montana

They are also known as cougars or pumas. Mountain lions are apex predators of Montana’s wilderness. Their sneakiness and strength make them some of the toughest animals around.

Did you know? Mountain lions are highly unreachable creatures that are rarely seen but are estimated to number around 30,000 in the western U.S., with approximately 5,700 potentially living in Montana alone.

Habitat and Behavior

Mountain lions are large cats, with males weighing between 115 and 220 pounds. They possess strong muscular bodies, enabling them to take down prey much larger than themselves.

Typically solitary creatures, mountain lions are known for their elusive nature, making human encounters relatively rare. But, when cornered or if a female’s cubs are threatened, they can become particularly aggressive.

Why They’re Deadly

  • Strength and agility – These cats can cover 40 feet in a single leap and climb trees with ease, making escape difficult.
  • Powerful jaws – A mountain lion’s bite can crush bone, and they typically go for the neck, aiming to sever the spinal cord of their prey.
  • Stealth predators – They are masters of the ambush, often stalking their prey silently before striking.

Wildlife Emergency

Encounters with wildlife are not uncommon, so it’s a good idea to know emergency contact information. You can also use this contact list to report if you have seen a wild animal that needs help or that has found itself in areas where people live.


If I encounter a grizzly bear, what should I do?
Avoid direct eye contact, speak in a calm and low voice, and slowly back away without turning your back on the bear. Do not run, as this might trigger a chase.

Are black widow spider bites fatal?
While the venom of a black widow is potent, fatalities in healthy adults are rare. But, children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems are at a higher risk. It’s crucial to seek medical attention immediately after a bite.

What's the best way to avoid encounters with these animals?
Awareness and preparation are key. When hiking or camping in Montana, make noise to alert animals of your presence, travel in groups, and store food properly to avoid attracting wildlife. Familiarize yourself with the habitats of these animals to know where you’re likely to encounter them.

I've seen videos of people approaching wildlife in Montana. Is this safe?
No, it’s never safe to approach or feed wild animals. Such actions can be dangerous for both humans and the animals. They can become accustomed to human presence and food, which can lead to problematic interactions in the future.