Choosing—and ranking—the absolute cutest animals in our national parks is a tough job, but someone has to do it. Luckily, our experts developed a rigorous scoring system.
The scoring system
Each animal was scored on a 5-point scale in four categories: Smallness, fatness, fluffiness, and regionality.
1= Not so much
5 = OMG we’re dying
1.) Smaller is cuter
2.) Fatter is cuter
3.) Fluffier is cuter
4.) Indicative of the region is cuter
Overall score is a total of the subscores.
Score: 7 (small: 1; fat: 1; fluffy: 2; indicative: 3). Yes, they’re huge eventually, but they start out oh-so-adorable. And those ears!
#9 Dall Sheep
Score: 9 (small: 2; fat: 2; fluffy: 1; indicative: 4). No, you aren’t allowed to take the baby dall sheep home with you.
#8: Kit Fox
Score: 10 (small: 4; fat: 1; fluffy: 3; indicative: 2). What is cuter than a regular fox? A smaller fox.
Score: 11 (small: 4; fat: 1; fluffy: 4; indicative: 2). Fact: Ringtails are so cute, lonely miners used to keep them as pets.
Where to see them:Arches, Big Bend, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Carlsbad Caverns, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Great Basin, Guadalupe Mountains, Joshua Tree, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Redwood, Saguaro, Sequoia, Yosemite, Zion
#6: West Indian Manatee
Score: 12 (small: 1; fat: 5; fluffy: 1; indicative: 5) This manatee wants two things in the world: 1. To be your friend; and, 2. A snack.
Where to see them: Dry Tortugas, Everglades
#5: Desert Tortoise
Score: 13 (small: 3; fat: 4 [shell counts]; fluffy: 1; indicative: 3) Watch out, this baby tortoise is coming straight for your heart.
#4: Brown Bear
Score: 14 (small: 1; fat: 5; fluffy: 5; indicative: 3) Should you be scared of brown bears? Probably. Should you be scared of this brown bear? Only if you’re allergic to cute. Or if mama’s nearby.
#3: Yellow-Bellied Marmot
Score: 16 (small: 4; fat: 5; fluffy: 3; indicative: 4). Proud. Strong. Nobel. None of these words describe the marmot.
Where to see them: Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Teton, Great Basin, Great Sand Dunes, Kings Canyon, Lassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Sequoia, Rocky Mountain, Wind Cave, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Zion
#2: Sea Otter
Score: 17 (small: 4; fat: 3; fluffy: 5; indicative: 5) There is literally no fuzzier animal. You just can’t tell when they’re wet.
#1: North American Pika
Score: 19 (small: 5; fat: 5; fluffy: 5; indicative: 4) The North American pika might be the cutest animal in the world. And that sound!!