River Bend in Montana
Photo of lion warning sign in park.


Encourage Montana FWP to reduce hunting quotas until they have better mountain lion population estimates.

Montana's 8-month-long hunting season allows trophy hunters to kill 668 of the state's native lions, using methods that include the use of hounds to chase and tree the cats before they're shot. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) overestimates the state's mountain lion population at 5,330 animals. The actual number may be less than half of that. A scientific analysis of the state's habitat areas and known density rates for mountain lions puts their likely population between 2,112 and 3,258.

Montana's long hunting season puts mother lions at risk of being killed and orphaning their cubs, who will die of starvation or be killed for straying onto farms in a desperate search for food.

  • Return to the portal page for Montana State.

  • The status of Puma concolor in Montana.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in Montana.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in Montana.

  • Cougar science and research in Montana.

  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

SUMMARY: Mountain Lions in the State of Montana

For more detail you can explore using the links below.

The status of Puma concolor.

In an ideal world, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would census mountain lion populations each year before setting hunting quotas. With the current tools available, such efforts would be expensive in time and resources. Instead, wildlife managers use a combination of population models and stakeholder desires in order to set their hunting quotas. Montana has some of the highest harvest rates in the country and each year MFWP increases quota limits. Unfortunately, MFWP's explanation for increasing the number of mountain lions that could be shot is not scientifically-based or driven by sound data.

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Mountain lion law in Montana.

From 1903 until 1963 Mountain lions in Montana were listed as a bountied predator. During this time at least 1,897 mountain lions were reported killed and turned over to government agents for the reward. In 1963 Montana's classification for mountain lions changed to "predator" with no bounty offered. In 1971, Montana reclassified mountain lions as game animals and established a regulated hunting season. This designation still stands.

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The history of lions in the state.

Like most states, mountain lions in Montana were persecuted as vermin by early European settlers. For decades, bounties were paid for each lion killed. Nearly 1,900 bounties were collected before they were reclassified as a game species in 1963. Human-caused mountain lion still remains high, with increasing sport hunting quotas, conflict with humans, and habitat loss as the main causes.

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Lion habitat in Montana.

Approximately half of the state of Montana is considered mountain lion habitat. These highly adaptable felines are able to survive in much of the mountainous and forested regions in the western portion of the state. Keep in mind that although mountain lions are physically capable of living in these places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and conflicts with humans can locally eliminate mountain lions from any particular area.

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The science of lions in the state.

Always a work in progress, this page is a collection of all the lion-related scientific publications and articles we have complied through the years. Mountain lion research in the state is generally conducted by researchers out of state universities and is in partnership with state wildlife biologists.

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Take action for lions.

Montana has some of the highest mountain lion harvest rates in the country and they continue to further elevate these limits. The justification for increasing the number of mountain lions that could be shot is based on hunter ability to kill lions rather than sound data. Increasing hunting quotas can cause population decline, disrupt lion social structure, and ultimately lead to greater conflicts between livestock operators and mountain lions.

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Click here to view our Activist Guide...

Becoming a Mountain Lion Activist

There are lots of opportunities to take action!

Are you new to mountain lion activism? You want to change your local emtironment to improve it for cougars... but you don't know how to start. You may feel like you are all alone... but it takes just one person to change the attitudes and lifestyles of hundreds of others. You don't need to belong to a group. It doesn't take special skills or superhuman abilities. You just need to care enough about cougars to want to help them survive. You've already done the hard part, now let us help you with the next step.