It’s Legal to Own a Lion or Tiger in the State of Montana
Yep, you read that right. You can legally own a lion or a tiger in the state of Montana. In addition, you can also own a bear or a wolf. However, a permit from the state of Montana is required in order to own big cat, and the process is long and drawn out—even if you fill out a permit, the state can deny your application.
The application requires information on the exotic species requested, the intended purpose for possession, where the exotic species will be held, and the enclosures intended to contain the them. There are a couple of exceptions: servals and jungle cats are non-controlled and may be possessed and sold as pets without a permit in Montana.
Any non-native wildlife in Montana is considered exotic wildlife. A person cannot import, possess, or sell any exotic wildlife unless doing so is allowed by law or commission rule.
In Montana, exotic wildlife has three classifications: prohibited, controlled, and non-controlled. For zoos and other roadside attractions in Montana, a Roadside Menagerie permit is required to exhibit or use wild animals to attract trade or for other commercial purposes. Roadside Menagerie Permits require proof of liability insurance.
Montana also has caging, record keeping, feeding, treatment, and sanitation requirements. Tigers and mountain lions must be tattooed on the left thigh. The annual permit fee for five or fewer animals is $10. The annual permit fee for more than five animals is $25. Click here to view the application.
Many exotic pets, including any member of the Crocodylidae family, spider monkeys, apes, and raccoons, are illegal to own in the state of Montana. To find a full list of exotic prohibited species in Montana, click here.
An official with Montana FWP told us that exotic animals don't always make the best pets and that you're better off adopting a domestic animal such as a dog or cat.
If you'd like to learn more or have any questions about owning a big cat in Montana, contact Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.