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Animals

The 10 Cutest Animals in America’s National Parks

Get ready for adorable: These are the 10 cutest animals in the national parks, according to our scientific rankings. You know you can’t resist.

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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! Where to see…

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! Where to see them: Acadia, Denali, Katmai, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Teton, Wrangell-Saint Elias, Yellowstone photo: Maarten Nijman/Flickr

Mike Boylan/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Mike Boylan/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Utahcamera/Wikimedia

Utahcamera/Wikimedia

Robertbody/Wikimedia

Robertbody/Wikimedia

Ahodges7/Wikimedia

Ahodges7/Wikimedia

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Charles Sharp/flickr

Charles Sharp/flickr

Inklein/Wikimedia

Inklein/Wikimedia

Joe Robertson/Wikimedia

Joe Robertson/Wikimedia

Max Wilson/LesserPlaces

Max Wilson/LesserPlaces

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

Underlying assumptions:

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.

The Results

#10: Moose

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! Where to see…
photo: Maarten Nijman/Flickr

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!

Where to see them:Acadia, Denali, Katmai, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Teton, Wrangell-Saint Elias, Yellowstone

#9 Dall Sheep

Mike Boylan/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
photo: Mike Boylan/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Score: 9 (small: 2; fat: 2; fluffy: 1; indicative: 4). No, you aren’t allowed to take the baby dall sheep home with you.

Where to see them:Denali, Kobuk Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Lake Clark, Wrangell-Saint Elias

#8: Kit Fox

Utahcamera/Wikimedia
photo: Utahcamera/Wikimedia

Score: 10 (small: 4; fat: 1; fluffy: 3; indicative: 2). What is cuter than a regular fox? A smaller fox.

Where to see them:Arches, Big Bend, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Carlsbad Caverns, Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Great Basin, Guadalupe Mountains, Joshua Tree, Saguaro, Zion

#7: Ringtail

Robertbody/Wikimedia
photo: Robertbody/Wikimedia

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 CanyonCanyonlands, 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

Ahodges7/Wikimedia
photo: Ahodges7/Wikimedia

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

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Score: 13 (small: 3; fat: 4 [shell counts]; fluffy: 1; indicative: 3) Watch out, this baby tortoise is coming straight for your heart.

Where to see them:Death Valley, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Saguaro, Zion

#4: Brown Bear

Charles Sharp/flickr
photo: Charles Sharp/flickr

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.

Where to find them:Denali, Gates of the Arctic, Glacier, Glacier Bay, Grand Teton, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Kobuk Valley, Lake Clark, North Cascades, Wrangell-Saint Elias, Yellowstone

#3: Yellow-Bellied Marmot

Inklein/Wikimedia
photo: Inklein/Wikimedia

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 CanyonLassen Volcanic, Mesa Verde, Sequoia, Rocky Mountain, Wind Cave, YellowstoneYosemite, Zion

#2: Sea Otter

Joe Robertson/Wikimedia
photo: Joe Robertson/Wikimedia

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.

Where to see them:Glacier Bay, Katmai, Kenai Fjords, Lake Clark, OlympicWrangell-Saint Elias

#1: North American Pika

Max Wilson/LesserPlaces
photo: Max Wilson/LesserPlaces

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!!

Where to see them: Crater Lake, Glacier, Grand Teton, Great Sand Dunes, Kings Canyon, Mount Rainier, North Cascades, Rocky MountainSequoia, YellowstoneYosemite, Zion

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