Ranging from the smallest mouse, to the largest moose, the Woodson Ranch is home to a diverse set of animals. With river access, tress, and open spaces, the Woodson ranch is the perfect habitat for a variety of wildlife. All photos depicted below were taken on the ranch.
1. American Badger: Taxidea taxus
The American Badger lives in open spaces like plains, prairies, farmland, and the edges of woods. They are burrowing animals and one badger will have multiple dens for storing food, hunting, sleeping, and giving birth. Their main diet consists of other small burrowing mammals such as ground squirrel, rats, gophers and mice, but they will also eat snakes, birds and reptiles. The American badger tends to have a very aggressive temperament, leaving it very few natural enemies. Because of this temperament it is best to give some distance to them if you happen to see any.
Fun Fact: Badgers have keen vision, scent, and hearing
2. Brown Bat: Myotis lucifugus
Bats are the only flying mammal, and many different species that can be found all around the world.The Little brown bat is the most common bat in Montana, and is well named since they are small and come in shades of brown. A high percentage of their diet is aquatic insects, as they like to forage over and near water. They find these insects by using echolocation, high frequency calls of 40 to 80 kilohertz (well above human hearing capabilities) are sent out and the reflection helps them locate their prey. It is common for humans to come in contact with these bats, as they will often nest in houses, barns, and other human structures. These bats have been known to carry rabies, so it is extremely important to be careful when dealing with them. We have seen bats on Woodson Ranch, but do not know with certainty which species.
Fun Fact: An average bat will consume as many as 1000 insects, while a pregnant female will eat up to her whole body weight in one sitting
3. Black Bear: Ursus Americanus
Not all black bears are actually black, but can come in shades of brown or a reddish color. However, most are black and that paired with their smaller size is a good way to distinguish them from the larger grizzly bear. Black Bears can be found all across the North American Continent, ranging from Alaska, much of Canada, and the United States. Black bears are omnivores, meaning that their diet consists of roots, and berries, as well as fish and meat. Bears are very attracted to human garbage, and it is important to secure garbage to help stop possible aggressive human bear encounters.
Fun Fact: Black Bears are excellent swimmers, and can swim up to a mile and a half in freshwater
4. Beaver: Castor Canadensis
Beavers are the largest rodent in the US, growing from two to three feet long (not including the tail) They are generally known for their long, flat, black tail which not only helps them swim faster but is also used to make a loud alarm call when slapped against the water. Beavers live in ponds, lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the continental United States, with the exception of deserts. Beavers are known for their ability to build dams, and are one of the few animals that can actively change an ecosystem by blocking rivers and streams to create new lakes, ponds, and floodplains.
Fun Fact: Beaver teeth grow continuously throughout their lives, and beavers must gnaw on trees to keep their teeth from getting too long.
5. Bobcat: Lynx rufus
Bobcats are very adaptable and can live in a wide variety of habitats, ranging from boreal coniferous, bottomland hardwood forests, to deserts and scrubland. The Majority of the world’s bobcats are found in the US, but they range from Mexico to Southern Canada. Bobcats are solitary, and territorial creatures, a female’s territory ranges around six square miles while a males territory may range up to 60. Bobcats are excellent climbers and can run up to 30 miles per hour, and their diet consists of mostly rabbits and hares. However, they have been known to go after domesticated animals like dogs, cats, sheep, and poultry as well.
Fun Fact: They are the smallest lynx
6. (Feral) Cat:
Feral cats are descendants of house cats that got away. They are generally very shy, and are exceptionally good hunters of small creatures like voles, mice, and packrats. They are also the scourge of songbirds everywhere. It is estimated that cats in the US-both domestic and feral-kill as many as 3.7 billion (yes, with a “B”) birds every year. For this reason it is recommended that all domesticated cats be spayed or neutered.
Fun Fact: It is thought that cats consume BILLIONS of birds every year.
7. Cattle: Bos taurus
Cattle are not a species native to Woodson Ranch, but they may be spotted here at certain times of the year. Generally, Woodson Ranch’s agricultural operations focus on growing hay, but in the wintertime, we lease out some of the pastures for cattle to graze. The grazing is, as most of our operations are, carefully coordinated and contemplated. We rotationally graze, for example, the riparian area, covering 1/3 of the property each year, ensuring that everything is grazed at least once every 3 years.
Fun Fact: It is believed that cattle were domesticated some 10,500 years ago.
8. Coyote: Canis latrans
The coyote is extremely widespread with the ability to live in multiple different habitats, it can be found all across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. You can find them in just about any habitat, from the fields and plains to the streets of urban areas. They are willing to eat just about anything from small rodents and mammals, like rabbits, to road-killed deer or fawns that they take down themselves.
Fun Fact: Coyotes mate for life
9. Field Mouse: Apodemus sylvaticus
Generally considered a pest, field mice can be found all through North America usually in places like meadows, fields, and gardens. They are highly adaptable rodents and have adapted to a multitude of different habitats, and can fit small holes or crevices to sneak into houses. Field mice are one of the fastest small rodents in the world, being able to run up 6 mph. They also happen to amazing swimmers and climbers, meaning they can go just about anywhere.
Fun Fact: Have very short life-spans, and only live around six months in the wild. They live up to 2 years in captivity.
10. Fox: Vulpes vulpes
Fox, Like coyotes, are a member of the canidae family. They are smaller than coyotes, though, and have bushier tails. There are 12 species of fox, but the one most often seen on Woodson Ranch-usually in the spring before the grass is too tall to see them-is the Red Fox. The Red Fox is usually a solitary animal, but during breeding season the male will bring the female (vixen) food to support the family.
Fun Fact: Their tail is over half its body length
11. Humans: Homo sapiens
What can we say about this species? Ubiquitous on the planet, full of a mix of good and bad, with an omniverous diet that includes some of the species on this list. Visitors to Woodson Ranch may see a few examples of this species roaming around, perhaps fishing, perhaps harvesting hay.
Fun fact: Humans are not always at the apex of the food pyramid. See #s 28 & 29.
12. American mink: Mustelidae neogale
Encountering a mink on the banks of the Ruby River is something like bumping into a living Slinky. Remember Slinkies? With a very flexible spine, these relatives of weasels, otters and ferrets are swift, curious, and, well, slinky. Known for their very fine, soft fur, these delightful creatures dine on fish and other aquatics, as well as eggs, small mammals, and birds. Interestingly, minks are susceptible to coronaviruses and the Covid-19 virus was documented to have passed from minks to humans in the Netherlands which prompted that government to end mink farming in 2020, and they culled their entire domestic-mink population of some 15-17 million of these cute critters.
13. Montane Shrew: Sorex obscurus
The Montane shrew can be found throughout western Montana, usually in high altitude alpines but can also be found in forests as low as 3000 ft. and usually stay by streams and rivers. Like most other long-tailed shrews, they eat mostly invertebrates but will also eat seeds and forbs.
Fun Fact: Montane Shrew do not hibernate, and are almost always eating.
14. Montane Vole: Microtus montanus
The Montane Vole are native to the northwestern United states, and can be found in abundance in the correct habitat. This habitat often consists of dry-grasslands and grassy alpine meadows, however there has been evidence of sightings in places like dense forests and marshes. The Montane Vole is primarily a herbivore, and feeds on grasses and leaves of forbs, and in the winter will also chew on tree roots and bark.
Fun Fact: There are 23 species of vole in the United states.
15. Moose: Alces Americanus
Moose are the largest of the deer family, standing at 6 feet tall and weighing over 1,000 pounds. Moose live in the northern region of the United States, Canada, and up into Alaska preferring colder climates due to their insulating fur. The word moose comes from an Algonquin term meaning ‘eater of twigs’, since moose are so tall they prefer eating twigs from trees rather than having to bend down to eat grass. Moose can be dangerous when feeling threatened, especially if there are young around, so remember to stay safe and keep your dog on a leash if you think you might encounter a moose.
Fun Fact: Ticks can be a problem for moose, causing blood loss as well as patches in their fur when they try to rub the ticks off.
16. Mule Deer: Odocoileus hemionus
Mule deer can be found all throughout the US, and Montana is no exception! Distinguishable for their big ears, which they are named after, they have adapted to the Rocky Mountain habitat and thrive best in places with extensive shrub growth and early stage plant growth. Their Diet consists of leaves and twigs of shrubs, and unlike other deer in the same habitat they do not eat large amounts of low-nutrient grass and instead are more selective. Mule deer are seldom seen on Woodson Ranch except in late winter when the snow in the high country causes them to seek shelter and food at lower elevation.
Fun Fact: Mule deer can run up to 45 mph.
17. North American River Otter: Lontra Canadensis
The North American River Otter can be found in much of the United States and Canada, thriving in ponds, marshes, lakes, and rivers. They are well adapted for semi-aquatic living with thick, protective fur to keep them warm and webbed feet and strong tail to help propel them through the water. River otters eat a variety of aquatic wildlife including fish, crabs and frogs as well as things like bird eggs, birds and reptiles. They tend to be playful creatures, and although they tend to live alone they often socialize in groups.
Fun Fact: North American River Otters can close their nostrils to keep water out during long dives.
18. Porcupines: Erethizon dorsatum
Porcupines are fairly common on Woodson Ranch. These conspicuous members of the rodent family are covered in sharp quills. They do not have much speed, so you can get fairly close to them, but don’t get too close because they can swing their tail like a spiked club and this will result in quills embedding themselves in you…or, your dog if it’s not careful. The name “Porcupine” comes from the latin “porcus” meaning “pig”, and “spina”, meaning quill. In some parts of the US, they are referred to as “quill pigs”
Fun fact: One porcupine has an average of 30,000 quills.
19. Mountain Cottontail Rabbit: Sylvilagus nuttallii
Although there are many types of rabbits, the Mountain cottontail is the one most commonly found on the Woodson Ranch. The Mountain cottontail is fairly small, rarely reaching 3 pounds in weight. Being herbivores they survive on a diet of plants, seeds, and grasses. They tend to be very skittish creatures, and always on the move as they search for places to hide from predators.
Fun Fact: Although cottontails can be kept as a pet, it is important to get one from a pet store rather than taking one from the wild.
20. Pronghorn Antelope: Antilocapra Americana
The Pronghorn Antelope is the fastest animal in the Western Hemisphere, able to run up to 60 miles per hour and 30-40 miles per hour over long distances. They live in grasslands, bushlands, and deserts and with no places to hide from predators it makes sense as to why their speed is so important. Even the fawns are able to run faster than humans when they are just four days old. Pronghorn Antelope have protruding eyes that allow them to detect movement up to 4 miles away, and are an excellent adaptation for living in the grasslands.
Fun Fact: The horns of the pronghorn, which give the animal their name, are pronged rather than branched like antlers.
21. Raccoon: Procyon lotor
Raccoons are the largest member of the Procyonidae family of carnivores, a family that includes ringtails, cacomistles, coatis, kinkajous, olingos, and olinguitos. Like coyotes, raccoons are very adaptable and live in both wild areas and places heavily populated by people. With 2-5 “kits” being born each year, you can see that they are prolific-some estimate that there is at least one raccoon per person in the US. And if you’ve ever seen one getting into your garbage can, you will understand why they are often called “trash pandas”.
Fun Fact: Raccoons seemingly wash their food before eating.
22. Richardson’s Ground Squirrel: Urocitellus richardsonii
The Richardson’s Ground squirrel can be found along the southern Canada border, and some upper states in the U.S. Their habitat is primarily prairies, pastures, and well drained land. They are primarily herbivores and will eat seeds, flowers, and leaves. They will eat insects and carrion if necessary. Richardson’s ground squirrels are social animals and live communally, but are territorial around their nest sites.
Fun Fact: Richardson’s ground squirrels will use high pitched whistles to warn of possible danger, and you can easily hear this around the ranch as you walk around.
23. Striped Skunk: Mephitis mephitis
The striped skunk is the most commonly found skunk in the United States, easily identified by their black fur with a white V down the back. Their habitat includes a mix of woods and grasslands or meadows, usually within close proximity to water. Skunks’ main defense is the foul-smelling fluid they spray from two glands near the base of their tail when startled.
Fun Fact: Skunks can spray up to 10 feet away, and can be smeled up to 1.5 miles away.
24. Short Tail Weasel: Mustela erminea
Weasels, although terribly cute, are generally known for their ferocity. Although the short tail weasel is quite small, they will eat up to 60% of their body weight each day. Anyone who owns chickens will know the struggle of trying to keep these cunning critters out of the coop, and the danger of losing all of your chickens if they find a way in. Weasels can generally be found in meadows, grasslands, and shrubby habitat all across the North Eastern and North Central United States and all throughout Canada and Alaska.
Fun Fact: Short tail weasels are a great way to deal with small rodent populations, such as ground squirrels and mice.
25. Whitetail deer: Odocoileus virginianus
The Whitetail deer is known, surprise surprise, for its whitetail that it will wave in fear and to signal danger to the herd. Found all the way from Southern Canada to Mexico the Whitetail deer lives in a variety of different habitats, ranging from Woods, brushland, to suburbs (Drive Carefully!) Whitetail deer are also able to reach speeds of 36 mph and jump 8.5 feet vertically and 30 feet horizontally, making them experts at running away from predators. Sometimes while out in nature you might notice Fawns lying in the grass, although they may seem abandoned, do NOT move them, mom knows where they are and will come back
Fun Fact: Chronic wasting disease is a fatal disease that is ravaging whitetail deer populations in Montana, and if you see a deer showing symptoms such as lack of coordination, excessive drooling, and lack of fear of people it is important to report it. These deer are also sometimes known as Zombie deer.
Animals Rarely or Not-yet Seen, But Which Would Not Surprise Us
26. Elk: Cervus elaphus canadensis
The elk, also known as the wapiti, is one of the largest species within the deer family. It is also one of the largest terrestrial mammals in its native range of North America, as well as Central. Elk are incredibly social creatures, and are also the loudest member of the deer family. They thrive in the coniferous rainforests along the pacific coast, aspen parklands, sagebrush flats, and prairies.
Fun Fact: Elk do not live on the ranch, but travel through it on migratory paths.
27. Gray Wolf: Canis Lupus
Gray wolves can be found throughout Alaska, Canada, and parts of the Northern United States. Although they have no preferred habitat, they tend to avoid a lot of human activity. Being Carnivores they mainly feed on large ungulates, such as deer, elk, and even moose. They will also go after domestic animals such as cattle and sheep. Gray Wolves are territorial throughout the year, and packs can vary from 3 to as many as 30.
Fun Fact: The Gray wolf’s range has been reduced drastically from the past, as wolves are commonly killed in revenge for killing livestock or in fear of human-wolf interactions.
28. Grizzly Bear: Ursus arctos
Grizzly bears are known to be in the surrounding mountains, but have never been spotted on Woodson Ranch. However, several experts have informed us that, at current rates of expansion, their presence here is likely at some point.
Fun Fact: Most adult female grizzlies weigh 130–180 kg (290–400 lb), while adult males weigh on average 180–360 kg (400–790 lb). These bears are big and not to be trifled with.
29. Mountain Lion: Puma concolor
Mountain Lions, like grizzly bears, are known to be in the vicinity of Woodson Ranch. In fact, it is likely that they have visited us but we simply missed seeing these elusive cats of some size. e cougar is the second-largest cat in the New World, after the jaguar(Panthera onca). Secretive and largely solitary by nature, the cougar is properly considered both nocturnal and crepuscular, although daytime sightings do occur. Despite its size, the cougar is more closely related to smaller kitties, including the domestic cats (Felis catus) than to any species of the subfamily pantherinae. Although we have never seen one, it pays to keep your wits about you in the brushier parts of the ranch!
Fun Fact: Mountain Lions hold the Guinness record for “most names” with over 40, ranging from Puma to Cougar to Mountain Lion and Catamount (meaning “cat of the mountains”).
Come out and help us identify more! You could stay at our Hill House, a fully furnished home available for rent right on the ranch.
(This Mammal Survey is brought to you as a result of our Summer Intern Program. In 2022, Alexandra Clarke spent the summer here completing numerous tasks, not the least of which was this compilation of photos, text, and types of mammals. It was her fervent wish to have visitors to the ranch add to this list, so if you are here and note an species not yet on the list, please let us know!)