The Mammal Guide is an online field guide for mammals found in western Montana. This guide contains detailed descriptions of 20 of Montana's mammals. To the extent possible our descriptions and photos describe the specifics of these mammals and their ecology in western Montana.
Montana is well known for its mammalian inhabitants. The state boasts the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48, and one of the largest elk populations in the nation. Western montana is also home to rare mammals such as the black footed ferret, the fisher, the wolverine and the bison.
Mammals are major contributors to Montana's economy in the form of hunting and wildlife viewing. According to MT Fish Wildlife and Parks, hunters and anglers spend more than $550 million dollars each year in Montana.
In addition to the 'charasmatic megafauna', many species of lagomorphs, mice, weasels and rodents are spread throughout western Montana as well.
While rodents are often viewed as "pests", they can play key ecological roles in our grasslands and forests including dispersing and eating seeds of plant species and influencing the abundance of both native and exotic species. They also can be "ecosystem engineers" altering habitats by digging tunnels or making mounds which can accelerate nutrient cycling and increase plant productivity. Squirrels can also play a key role in dispersing fungal spores of fungi (especially truffles). These small mammals are the base of the food web for many ecosystems as well and influence the abundance of mammalian predators which include most of our 'characteristic megafauna' species.