When exploring America’s sprawling landscapes, keep your eyes peeled for a flash of a white, fluffy tail or some giant paw prints. You’ll be sharing the trails with many adorable animals — here are just a few you may see.
Wildlife-watching is just one thing your kids will love about Yellowstone National Park.
1. The Eastern Cottontail Rabbit
These furballs are the most common rabbit species in North America — possibly because females can have up to 35 offspring per year.
Where to find them: Eastern cottontail rabbits live in meadows and shrubby areas all across the United States, especially in Eastern, South-central and Midwestern states. Keep your eyes peeled when exploring Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota, 440 kilometers north of Minneapolis.
2. Abert’s Squirrel (Tassel-Eared Squirrel)
They may look surprised, but that’s just their ear tufts. These squirrels are named for Colonel John James Abert, an 18th-century naturalist and topographer who organized the mapping of the American West.
Where to find them: Abert’s squirrels can be found throughout the Rocky Mountains, with concentrations in Arizona, New Mexico and the Colorado Plateau. You’ll find plenty of them scurrying around Bandelier National Monument, about 170 kilometers north of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
3. Antelope Ground Squirrel
Antelope ground squirrels like it hot. They survive using a heat-reduction method called “heat dumping,” which means they lie flat on the ground in shaded areas with legs spread wide.
Where to find them: These squirrels thrive in desert and dry scrub areas across the Southwest. You may spot these tiny creatures on a visit to Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada (roughly 480 kilometers north of Las Vegas near the Utah border).
4. American Black Bear
Black bears look cuddly, but do not mess with them: They can run at speeds of 40 to 48 kilometers per hour and weigh up to 450 kilograms. Plus, their sense of smell is seven times greater than a dog’s, and their dexterity allows them to open screw-top jars and even door latches.
Where to find them: Different species exist throughout the United States’ forested regions, especially in the Appalachian Mountains, the Rocky Mountains, the Northern Midwest, parts of the West Coast and Alaska. Keep an eye out for them when hiking in Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont on the Northeast Coast, about 250 kilometers northwest of Boston, Massachusetts.
5. Box Turtle
Look at the smile on this guy’s face — and yes, it is a guy. Male box turtles have red or orange eyes, while females have yellowish brown eyes.
Where to find them: The Eastern box turtle is found in the South-central, Eastern and Southeastern parts of the United States. Search the leafy forest floor in the Great Smoky Mountains, which stretch across North Carolina’s southwest border into Tennessee (about 270 kilometers west of Charlotte, North Carolina, and 330 kilometers east of Nashville, Tennessee).
6. White-Tailed Deer
The white-tailed deer is so common in the U.S. that it is the state animal of nine states. These delicate-looking animals can eat just about anything — even poison ivy.
Where to find them: White-tailed deer are a common sight across most of the United States, particularly in forested areas such as Shenandoah National Park in northwest Virginia (only 115 kilometers southwest of Washington, D.C.).
7. Grizzly Bear
They may have a friendly wave, but it’s best to keep your distance. Grizzlies can be aggressive, and they have a bite strong enough to crush a bowling ball. When entering winter hibernation, they can weigh up to 180 kilograms.
Where to find them: Alaska has the largest population of grizzlies; you can see them fishing for salmon in remote Katmai National Park in the southern part of the state. You also can find them in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho (particularly in the Yellowstone-Teton area).
8. Northern Pygmy Owl
Only 16 to 18 centimeters tall, these owls are among the smallest (and cutest) in North America. They also have famous feather markings — bright yellow “eyes on the back of their heads” — that confuse predators.
Where you can find them: Northern pygmy owls call Alaska and the West Coast home, specifically the edges of coniferous and deciduous forests. You might spot one in Sequoia National Park in central California, roughly 420 kilometers southeast of San Francisco and 330 kilometers northeast of Los Angeles.
9. American Pika
These creatures are constantly on the go, stockpiling food for the winter or carrying mouthfuls of dried grass and flowers to add to their nests. Their dizzying energy makes them adorable; even the noise they make to alert each other of predators is cute.
Where you can find them: The American pika scurries throughout the mountains in the western half of the United States. They particularly love the rocky, alpine conditions of Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest, located just 100 kilometers southeast of Portland.
10. Harbor Seal
Basking in the sun on the beach isn’t just for travelers: Harbor seals do it, too. These curious creatures weigh up to 136 kilograms and are known to people-watch — just as people watch them.
Where you can find them: Pacific harbor seals are found along the entire Pacific coastline; look for them lounging on the rocky shores of California’s Channel Islands National Park off the coast of Los Angeles. Atlantic Coast seals are found between Maine and Massachusetts. Your best bet is to head to Acadia National Park on Maine’s southern coast, about 270 kilometers northeast of Portland, Maine.
11. Kemp’s Ridley Sea Turtle
The Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle is the world’s smallest marine turtle. Sadly, it is also one of the most critically endangered.
Where you can find them: These turtles prefer the warmer waters of the Gulf of Mexico near Florida and Louisiana, but they have been known to inhabit waters as far north as New Jersey. Be sure not to step on baby turtles at Padre Island National Seashore on southern Texas’ Gulf Coast (380 kilometers southwest of Houston); the baby turtles hatch in the spring or summer months.
America’s animals weren’t always adorable. Go hunting for dinosaurs in Montana.