Learn more about some of Alberta’s cutest animals, including the American Pika, the North American River Otter, the American Marten, the Red Fox, the Common Nighthawk, and the Short-Tailed Weasel!
American Pika (Ochotona princeps)
Pikas are in the same family as rabbits and hares. However, unlike rabbits and hares, pikas’ front and back legs are approximately the same length, so they run rather than hop. They are approximately the size of a guinea pig, with rounded ears, beady eyes, and long whiskers. Pikas are also unique because they don’t have a visible tail!
The American Pika is found in Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. They live in the spaces between broken rocks, so they camouflage quite well with their surroundings. You will often hear the pika before you see it, making high-pitched horn-like noises.
North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis)
River otters are very playful creatures, a big part of their cuteness. They slide around, float on their back, dive into the water, roll around, and even play with small rocks and branches! River otters are adapted for living in the water, with long bodies, webbed feet, and thick water-repellent fur.
North American River Otters can be seen across the north half of Alberta. They spend most of their time in rivers and lakes, but may also wander into surrounding forests. There are two main pieces of evidence that a river otter may have been in an area - scat filled with fish bones and scales, and beaver-like slide marks down to the water.
American Marten (Martes americana)
American Martens are playful and cute, but also pretty ferocious predators. Basically, martens have the face of a fox, and the body of a weasel. Double the cute! They usually range between one and three pounds - about the weight of a pineapple. They have very soft, luscious fur - but this has historically made them prone to population challenges due to trapping.
Martens can be seen across the northern half of the province, usually in coniferous forests. They mostly eat rodents, but have been known to steal eggs from birds nests, and will also sometimes eat berries.
Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
The Red Fox is a member of the dog family - called Canidae. These small mammals are hunters, mostly eating hares, birds, and rodents. They are usually around 10 pounds, similar to the size of a small dog such as a terrier or a pug, but a little more ferocious.
Red Foxes can be spotted across Alberta. They prefer to live in open areas, but also burrow into the ground to make their den, hiding under brush or fallen logs. Red Foxes live in Alberta all year round, but their fur doesn’t change colours like many other mammals that live here. They are more easy to spot in winter with their bright orange coat standing out against the snow.
Common Nighthawk (Chordeiles minor)
Common Nighthawks are very cute little birds. They have massive oval eyes and a tiny little beak, but don’t let that fool you! They are able to open their mouth very wide to catch bugs while flying through the air. When resting, nighthawks blend right in with their environment because of their feathers look similar to the texture of bark or leaf litter.
Despite the name, Common Nighthawks aren’t very common to see. They are crepuscular, which means they are active during sunrise and sunset. They live all across Alberta, but you are more likely to see them in Southern Alberta, particularly in the Badlands.
Short-Tailed Weasel (Mustela erminea)
The Short-Tailed Weasel is the most common weasel in Alberta. They are about a foot long in total, and weigh very little. They may be small, but they are mighty! Weasels are some of the most carnivorous creatures in Alberta. They eat almost any small mammal, invertebrate, and sometimes even amphibians.
Weasels are very cute, but hard to spot. They live in thick vegetation and are active during the nighttime. Short-Tailed Weasels also change colour in summer and winter to blend in with their surroundings. In summer, they are brown with white bellies, but when winter comes around, they are all white, with a tip of black on their tail. Talk about camouflage!
These are some of Alberta’s cutest animals! Looking for more? Check out our Species Spotlight or watch our social media pages for more Alberta animals featured regularly.