Fearsome Foursome

Advice on local wildlife.

The mountains can hold plenty of fun, but you need to be smart when it comes to the local wildlife—with a little awareness and education, you’ll escape your encounters unscathed. Here’s what’s out there, and what to do when you meet these Montana natives.

Mountain Lion (Puma concolor)
Where to Find It: Mountains, but may roam the city in search of prey. Most active at dusk.
How to Avoid Trouble: At night, wear an extra headlamp facing backward. The light will blind a mountain lion and discourage it from stalking you.
If Trouble Finds You: Stand upright and face the cougar. Make a lot of noise and if attacked, fight back. Never run.

Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis)
Where to Find It: If you’re in the mountains, you’re in bear country.
How to Avoid Trouble: Carry bear spray and store your food safely—use a bear canister or hang it out of reach. Be noisy when hiking and biking so you don’t accidently sneak up on one.
If Trouble Finds You: If you encounter a bear, stand tall, avoid eye contact, and stay calm. Wait for it to get within 30 feet of you—then let the spray fly.

Moose (Alces americanus)
Where to Find It: Open grassy fields or marshlands in the mountains.
How to Avoid Trouble: Make noise when out hiking and biking, and carry bear spray just in case.
If Trouble Finds You: If it’s blocking your way, wait it out. If it charges, run away and get a tree between you and the angry moose. A squirt of bear spray should send it running.

Prairie Rattlesnake (Crotalus viridis)
Where to Find It: Dens, under rocks, houses, or anywhere else a snake can fit in open, arid country. The banks of the Madison are prime real estate in the warmer months.
How to Avoid Trouble: Listen for the rattle and keep your distance. Avoid reaching into dark places and running through sagebrush.
If Trouble Finds You: Slowly back away from the source of the rattle—that thing is pissed and needs space. If bitten, get to a hospital pronto.