Positivity is important—it’s good for your health, your outlook on life, and even your job performance. If you made a resolution for 2018, chances are it was to bring more positivity to your life. We get it, and that’s why we wanted to kick off the year with this list of the cutest native Canadian animals. You could just scroll through looking at all the adorable faces, but why not go see them in person? Everyone loves cute animals, and we’ve got some of the world’s cutest creatures right here in Canada. Your reward for making the trek? You just might see these lovable critters up close. #WorthIt.
1. Pine marten
Look at that face! The pine marten is found all over Canada, but getting a glimpse of these shy guys might be a challenge. Riding Mountain National Park in Wasagaming, Manitoba, is a good bet, thanks to its reintroduction program. There were 102 pine marten sightings in 2017—not bad, considering this critter isn’t exactly an extrovert. The Clear Lakes Region has much to offer outside of pine martens, though. Take a sunset cruise from Clear Lake Marina, then dine on wood-fired pizza at the Foxtail Café.
2. Collared pika
Fort Simpson, NT
He might look like a mouse, but the collared pika is no nuisance. In fact, he probably doesn’t even live near you; they prefer remote, high-altitude locations, thank you very much. Nahanni National Park Reserve near Fort Simpson, Northwest Territories is the perfect spot. It’s a rugged, mountainous place, but the diminutive pika doesn’t mind—he thrives here. You, however, will need to fly in, so hook up with Simpson Air from Fort Simpson for a day tour or a multi-day adventure in search of your new friends.
3. Arctic hare
Baffin Island, NU
To see this little ball of fluff, you’ve got some travelling to do—it’s called the Arctic hare for a reason. Baffin Island, Nunavut, is about as arctic as it gets, and when you’re travelling this far north, you’ll want to enlist the experts. Leave the legwork to Exodus Travels, so you can keep your eyes peeled for adorable animals. There’s loads of wildlife here, from polar bears to arctic foxes to lemmings. You could say it’s the Canadian capital of cute! You may need to warm up a bit after acting like an Arctic explorer; luckily, Grind & Brew Café in Iqaluit has plenty of hot coffee and food.
4. Swift fox
After the hare, comes the fox! The swift fox is about the size of a house cat and much, much cuter. Unfortunately, she’s also endangered, but reintroduction programs are on the rise and seeing success. The Cochrane Research Institute in Cochrane, Alberta, is one organization working to help them. You may have to apply to be a volunteer to meet one of these charming canids, but we’d say it’s worth it. If you just pay a visit, be sure to head to Ducks on the Roof afterwards and end a great day with triple-decker sandwiches and beer.
5. Beluga whale
Somerset Island, NU
Baffin Island is pretty far north, but not as far as Somerset Island, Nunavut. Located 800 km north of the Arctic Circle, this outpost is so far north, it only has one lodge—but it’s a great spot for watching smiley-faced beluga whales in their natural habitat. Expedition Trips can help you get there with one of its packages leaving from Yellowknife. For beluga whale watching closer to civilization, head to Tadoussac, Quebec, and book a boat tour with Croisieres AML.
6. Black-tailed prairie dog
Val Marie, SK
With their adorable fatness and excited little personalities, what’s not to love about the black-tailed prairie dog? They’re also one of the easiest animals to see: Grasslands National Park has a “Dog Town” you can simply hike to. Val Marie, Saskatchewan, is the gateway to the park and has everything you need to fall in love with the prairies. Before you hit the park, chow down a burger or Caesar salad at Harvest Moon Café, and you’ll be ready for exploring.
7. Kermode/spirit bear
Prince Rupert, BC
The Kermode bear (also known by its more enigmatic name, the spirit bear) is one of the rarest bears on earth. They are black bears, but with a twist: they’re white, thanks to a recessive gene. By most estimates, there are about 100 in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest. Another fun fact: The rainforest also has grey wolves that are black. Yes, it’s a very interesting place. Leave from Prince Rupert on a tour with Wildlife Journeys, but not before you’ve enjoyed a delicious Italian meal at Cowboy Café.
8. Harbour seal
Deer Island, NB
One look at the big round eyes and fat belly of the harbour seal, and you’ll be smitten. Where can you gaze into those eyes in person? The Bay of Fundy is one of the world’s most lush ecosystems, and Deer Island, New Brunswick, on the southern end, is an ideal spot for experiencing all the bay has to offer. Paddle out from Northwest Harbour with Seascape Kayak Tours—a seal just might swim right up to you!
Captivating, intimidating, or a bit of both? Sure, the Canadian lynx is a stealthy, lethal hunter—but she’s so fluffy! This feisty feline makes her home throughout Canada, but she is quite elusive. You should head to Aspen Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Rosseau, Ontario, for a guaranteed sighting. Their resident lynxes, Jinx and Jardica, share their enclosure with their best friend, Monty the bobcat. Awww! When you get back to the town centre, enjoy dinner and drinks at Crossroads restaurant, which has options for both the carnivore and vegetarian types.
10. River otter
River otters’ playful personalities make them quite popular among animal lovers. Add in the fact that they’re found nearly everywhere in Canada, and you’ve gotta try to spot one! The best place is in Whiteshell, Manitoba, as you paddle the Caddy Lake Rock Tunnels in Whiteshell Provincial Park. Rent a canoe from GBR Marina Rentals on the south shore of Caddy Lake, just a mile and a half from the first tunnel. Make it a day trip or camp at the lakeside sites and do the entire 170-km trip. You’ll feel just like the tunnelling river otter—and hopefully see some, too!
11. Ermine (short-tailed weasel)
Queen Charlotte, BC
There’s a good chance you’ve seen these little guys around town—perhaps stealing your snacks or living in your basement. Ermines may get into trouble, but you have to forgive them, because they look so cute doing it. Make your way to Queen Charlotte, British Columbia, for a tour of the gorgeous Gwaii Haanas National Park, where the Haida ermine is protected and making a comeback. Fuel up with breakfast at Queen B’s Café, then hook up with Green Coast Kayaking for a two-, three-, or seven-day trip paddling and hiking this incredible landscape.
Grand Manan Island, NB
The islands of New Brunswick are super-important stopovers for migrating birds and whales, hunting grounds for bears, and breeding grounds for one of the world’s most charmingly awkward birds: puffins! Enjoy coffee and conversation at Odd Rainbow Restaurant on Grand Manan Island, then cruise down to the island’s southern end to Sea Watch Tours. They’ll take you to Machias Seal Island, where about 5,000 pairs of puffins nest each July. It’s pretty exclusive stuff—Sea Watch is the only tour company authorized to go there, and tours are limited to 15 people per day, so get in there.
Bonus: More Canadian classics
Canada has a few iconic animals that we just couldn’t leave off the list, and you can see almost all of them at Parc Omega in Montebello, Quebec. The drive-through park is the perfect spot for kids to see Canadian animals. The park is divided into areas, so you’ll want to look for lumbering moose and black bears in The Forest; mischievous beavers in The Lake; and crafty Arctic wolves and foxes in the Boreal Region. When the weather gets warmer, you can stay in the park, but for now, book a room in Montebello. That way, you won’t miss the amazing wood-fired pizza and craft beer at Le Bistro.
If you haven’t yet made a new year’s resolution, we’ve got a few suggestions for you: Go on more adventures, and see more cute animals. There are tons of cool animals in Canada—are you bold enough to find them all?