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Montana Quick Facts

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Here are some quick facts about Montana you may find interesting.

  • Nickname: The Treasure State
  • Statehood: 1889; 41st state
  • Population (2020): 1,079,619
  • Land area: 147,046 square miles
  • Highest point: Granite Peak, 12,799 feet (3,899 m)
  • Lowest point: Kootenai River, 1,807 feet (551 m)
  • Major rivers: Missouri River, Yellowstone River, Milk River
  • Major lakes: Flathead Lake, Yellowstone Lake, Fort Peck Lake

Montana is the number one state in the following categories:

Percentage Of Land In Public Ownership

Montana has more land that is publicly owned than any other state in the lower 48. According to the Congressional Research Service, 62.5% of Montana’s land is publicly owned. This translates to vast opportunities for outdoor recreation and wildlife viewing.

Percentage Of Land That Is Designated As Wilderness

Montana has more wilderness areas than any other state in the lower 48. There are over 17 million acres of wilderness in Montana. Approximately 13.4% of Montana’s land is designated as wilderness. This includes 24 designated wilderness areas covering 3.4 million acres, as well as 12 million acres of roadless areas that are managed under wilderness guidelines.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 established the National Wilderness Preservation System to protect areas of land that are “untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Wilderness areas are managed to preserve their natural conditions and to provide opportunities for solitude and recreation.

Percentage Of Land That Is Forested

Montana has more land that is forested than any other state in the lower 48. Approximately 22.5 million acres, or 15.8% of Montana’s land area, is forested. Of this, 85% is federally owned. Montana’s forests are home to a wide variety of tree species, including ponderosa pine, lodgepole pine, Douglas-fir, spruce, and fir.

National Parks

Montana has four national parks: Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

National Forests

Montana has 17 national forests, which cover over 20 million acres.

Rivers and Streams

Montana is crisscrossed by an impressive network of over 1,700 rivers and streams. These waterways provide vital habitat for fish and other aquatic species, and offer stunning scenery for paddling and fishing adventures. The Missouri, the Yellowstone, and the Clark Fork are just a few of Montana’s major rivers.

Largest Freshwater Lake in the West

Flathead Lake in northwestern Montana reigns supreme as the biggest natural freshwater lake in the western United States. Boasting over 200 square miles of surface area and 185 miles of shoreline

Number of Elk

Montana has the largest elk population in the lower 48 states, with an estimated 120,000-150,000 elk. The next highest elk populations are in Wyoming (70,000-90,000 elk) and Colorado (60,000-80,000 elk).

Number of Mule Deer

According to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), there are an estimated 250,000 – 335,000 mule deer in Montana. This is the largest population of mule deer in the lower 48 states.

Number of Bighorn Sheep

There are approximately 6,000 bighorn sheep in Montana. This number has been increasing in recent years due to conservation efforts. Montana has the largest bighorn sheep population in the lower 48 states. The next highest populations are in Wyoming (2,000-3,000 sheep) and Idaho (1,000-2,000 sheep).

Number of grizzly bears

Montana has the largest grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states, with an estimated 1,500 bears. The other states with grizzly bear populations are Wyoming, Idaho, and Washington. Wyoming has an estimated 700 bears, Idaho has an estimated 1,000 bears, and Washington has an estimated 200 bears.

Number of Wolves

According to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), there are an estimated 1,144 wolves in Montana as of January 2023. This is the highest number of wolves in the state since the 1990s.

The wolf population in Montana is much higher than the wolf populations in other states. Wyoming has an estimated 118 wolves, Idaho has an estimated 1,050 wolves, and Washington has an estimated 162 wolves.

Number of Antelope

According to the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), there are an estimated 155,000 antelope in Montana as of January 2023. This is the highest number of antelope in the state since the 1970s.

Montana has the largest antelope population in the United States. Wyoming has an estimated 120,000 antelope, and South Dakota has an estimated 60,000 antelope.

Number of Bison

Montana has the largest protected herd of wild bison in the United States. There are over 1,000 bison on the American Prairie Reserve. The American Prairie Reserve is a 3.2-million-acre prairie reserve(aiming to reach 10 million acres) located in north-central Montana. The reserve is dedicated to restoring and protecting the prairie ecosystem, and bison are a keystone species in the prairie ecosystem. The reserve’s bison herd is the largest free-roaming herd of bison in the United States outside of Yellowstone National Park which has between 3,000 to 5,000 bison. The American Prairie Reserve’s goal is to establish a herd of 5,000 bison. The National Bison Range is located in the Flathead Valley in northwestern Montana and is home to over 400 bison.