Under Construction May 2011


Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis


Length: 28mm for Odocoileus hemionus (Mayer 1952), 53mm Odocoileus hemionus hemionus (Moore et al 1974), 30-40mm (ASM#1), 40-50mm (ASM #3)

Diameter Range: Under 200 microns for Odocoileus hemionus (Mayer 1952), 299 microns Odocoileus hemionus hemionus (Moore et al 1974), 250-380 microns (ASM #1), 355 microns max (ASM #3)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Medulla is not the dark line down the center of many animals, but large cells with a honeycomb or bubble-pack look.  Much variation in size and overall polygonal shape of individual cells.  Cells have rounded edges and subtle parallel striations.  Seem to be s-curves between them in overall pattern, as opposed to zigzags or concentric patterns.  There are about 10-12 cells across a guard hair?  (ASM #3)

Color: White with areas of brown.  Deer and elk seem to be the only banded Alaskan hoofed animals.  Moore et al (1974) described the banding of Odocoileus hemionus hemionus as brownish gray at the base and yellow or dark yellow band in upper shaft with a black tip.

Scales:  Scales have a definite narrow fish-scale look to them, at least 5-6 across, usually with smooth edges.  The big polygon shapes of the medulla should not be mistaken for the scales under the microscope.


Length: 15-20mm (ASM #1 2009), 20-35mm (ASM #3 2009)

Diameter Range: 10-30 microns (ASM #2) 15 microns (ASM #3)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Rare but notable interrupted medulla, but the cuticle is very prominent. Many underfur hairs have no medulla.

Color:  Brown with segments of white

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities: Four pelages: natal, juvenile, adult summer and adult winter.  Spring molt involves guard hair follicles only with underfur shed by breakage.  Autumn molt involves all follicles.  Guard hairs increase in diameter from birth to adult winter pelage.  Adult summer pelage has the longest guard hair.  Color banding is the same sequence of four colors but different variations in the four pelages and on different areas of the body, with the most pronounced differences on different body areas of fawns (Cowan and Raddi 1972).  Summer coat of reddish-brown replaced by dark brownish gray in the winter  (ADF&G 2008).  Hairs have a kink, rather zig-zag shaped, very brittle. includes a photo of a white specimen said to be seen sometimes among deer of northern Admiralty Island. 


Notes: ASM #1 is from the ASM education collection pelt ring, ASM #2 is from the Sheldon Jackson Museum education collection touchboard, ASM #3 is from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum touchboard.  Mayer 1952 info about Odocoileus hemionus does not seem to apply to our Alaskan deer?

Troubleshooting: Most hoofed Alaskan mammals (except elk) won’t have banded guard hair, but not all guard hair sample of the deer will be banded.  Lack of medulla in the underfur is a clue.   Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) give data about white-tailed deer odocolieus virginianus: winter guard hair 60mm or more, white at base and becoming grey near the middle, with a dark brown 10mm band and then a black tip. underfur 10mm long.  Summer guard hair 40-45mm, and tail hair longer than 140mm.  Coloration in summer a rusty-fawn, no mention of banding.  Belly white.  (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)  Moore et al (1974) describe the white tailed deer as 77mm long and 291 microns wide.

Range: Wet coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska, with range extended to Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Afognak Islands through transplants (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Cervidae (the cervids) The Sitka Black-Tailed Deer is a subspecies of mule deer.  There are no white-tailed deer in Alaska (Forsyth 1999)  Sometimes called a “mule deer” or a “Sitka deer” (MacDonald and Cook 2009)

Beware, there is also a “sika” deer that is Cervus nippon and it is found in Asia and Europe: a totally different animal. 

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