Mountain Lions (or Cougars) are one of America's largest predators (grizzly bears and polar bears - in northern Alaska are larger). They are majestic great cats that used to inhabit all of the Lower 48 but now are confined to the western half of the country (except for an isolated population in Florida). For those wanting to go on an all-American wildlife safari consider visiting Bearizona in Arizona (home of orphaned and rehabilitated North American animals).

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While it is easy to spot deer everywhere in the country, and easy enough to spot moose and bears in their ranges, mountain kitties are famously elusive and shy. It is difficult to spot them just trekking through the backcountry. For those really eager to spot them, there are mountain lion tours in Montana.

What To Know About Montana's Mountain Lions

They are secretive and solitary species and are considered both nocturnal and crepuscular. They are an ambush predator, an apex predator, and considered an adaptable and generalist species.

They are not always the apex predator, sometimes they will yield their catch to jaguars (the largest cat in the Americas), grizzly bears, packs of wolves, black bears, and even alligators in Florida.

  • Distribution: The Most Widespread Large Land Mammal In The Americas
  • Range: From Yukon In Canada To The Southern Andes In South America
  • Names: Cougar, Mountain Lion, Panther, Catamount
  • Conservation Status: Least Concern
  • Montana Population: 5,330 (According To Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks); Between 2,112 and 3,258 (According To Mountain Lion Organization)

Mountain Lions have a complicated relationship with people. While they are mostly shy and keep to themselves, they can attack farmers' livestock and on occasion attack people. In the past, the state would pay people to shoot them, today most people want to live peacefully with them (although hunting is still permitted in some states).

Related: Without Even Leaving The U.S., Here's What To Expect On Oregon's Wildlife Safari

Mountain Lion Photography Tours

It is not a simple thing to spot these majestic kitties in the wild. In Montana, there are photography tours to see the mountain lions. In fact, America is one of the best places in the world to go on a wildlife safari!

It is important to be aware that these are not passive wildlife tours. It is not a wildlife tour where one refrains from disturbing the wildlife. With these tours, quite the opposite is true.

Mountain lion tour companies have trained mountain lion hounds. The mountain lions are chased and cornered - often up a tree. During sports hunts the mountain lion is shot by the hunter, on photography tours, it is shot with a camera.

One of the tour companies in Montana offering mountain lion safaris is Royal Tine Outfitters. Throughout most of the year, they offer some sort of outdoor activity. In late summer, August, and December through April they offer Montana wildlife photo safari tours. But the real season is in the winter. This is when they offer the best mountain lion photography tours.

  • Season: Winter For Cougar Photo Tours
  • Price: $250.00 Per Person Per Day For A Montana Wildlife Photo Safari

These mountain lion tours are lead by trained lion hounds. The professional guides will ensure that the visitors are safe from the mountain lions and that the mountain lions will not be harmed.

Royal Tine Outfitters offers much more than mountain lion hunts and photo safaris. They also offer elk hunts (with rifles and archery), horse riding tours, fishing tours, and multiday packing trips on horseback and camping in the Montana wilderness. See their website for more information.

The same company offers mountain lion hunting tours.

Related: Puget Sound Whale-Watching: When To Go, And Which Whales You'll See

Mountain Lion Hunting In Montana

Mountain Lion hunting is legal in Montana (with a special license). Montana is estimated to have one of the largest mountain lion populations in the United States. The National Geographic states:

"In most western U.S. states and Canadian provinces, populations are considered sustainable enough to allow managed sport hunting."

For those who wish to check on Montana's mountain lion hunting regulations see the state government's website here and the quotas can be seen here. Since 1971 when the mountain lions have been reclassified as a game species and regulations introduced, their populations have rebounded.

  • "Bountied Predator": From 1903 to 1963 There Was A Bounty On Mountain Lions In Montana
  • Game Species: Reclassified As A Game Species In 1971
  • License Fee: $19 (Resident), $320 (Nonresident)
  • Hunting Season: In Montana, The Mountain Lion Season Is 8 Months In The Year (With Varying Restrictions)

According to the Mountain Lion Organization, the hunting season allows for 668 mountain lions to be hunted. See their website for a discussion on mountain lion hunting in Montana.

Next: Everything You Need To Know Before Going On A Serengeti Safari (With Expert Tips)