Under Construction May 2011


Martes pennanti


Length: 50-60mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Diameter Range: 72-176 microns (Brown 1942)  less than 100 microns (Mayer 1952) up to 110 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.67 ave (Brown 1942)  0.42-0.59 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Medullary cells at the base robust, flattened, often joined together as in a horizontal “H” or “U” shape.  Cells in the medulla not separated by the pigment masses we see in canids. (Brown 1942)  Medulla in the very long narrow base area before the shield has cells up to three across, but dark and harder to examine in the shield area.  Edges are bumpy and the medulla has dark and light areas.

Color: Brown specks and dashes with some diffuse brownish orange color.

Scales: Scales at the base include a long tine pointing toward the tip that may distinguish the genus martes from the genus mustela?   Scales at the base are close with smooth margins, becoming wavy fairly quickly and then the scales transition to very pointed petal shapes throughout the narrow base region up until the shield, then the scale become very close with slightly serraded edges and many of the edges are parallel (ASM #1).  That reflects the appearance of the Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) images, although the tine is not seen on the base of the hair on the ASM sample.



Diameter Range: 20-36 (Brown 1942) 20 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.56 (Brown 1942)

Medulla: uniserial ladder

Color: light grey (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Scales: long, spiky, pointed petals

Macro Qualities: 2.5 – 3.5 feet long (Forsyth 1999) up to 15lbs in size (?)  Silkiness is more like a raccoon than a marten.  Good-to-fair “serviceability” (Bachrach 1953)  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) very helpful in color description: back and rear, hairs ought to be black and more so in the males than the females.  Hairs from other areas of the body should be light grey near the base and black near the tip.  In those hairs there is a brown band about 5mm wide in the middle-tip region.  Also, guard hairs are wavy near the base and slightly curved near the tip.  Samet (1950) describes the color of the fur in winter as blue-black, and the summer color reddish with the head and neck tinged with grey.  He says there is no light patch on the throat that is typically seen in other kinds of martens.

Cultures:  For example: Samet (1950) reports that fisher is mainly used for scarves in the fur industry.

Notes: ASM #1 collected from Alaska Department of Fish and Game taxidermy mount courtesy of Riley Woodford.  Fisher is larger than the American Marten

Troubleshooting: Mink, martin and fisher can be difficult to distinguish. In our only sample of fisher, it seemed that the tip of the guard hair may be so darkly pigmented that the medulla can no longer be observed.  This did not happen in any of our mink or marten samples, where the medulla could be observed all the way to the tip.

Range: Mixed coniferous and deciduous forests in Northern North America, from Maine to British Columbia.  Not thought to be common in Yukon territory.  First documented one trapped near Juneau in 1997, at least five documented in Southeast Alaska. A fisher skull was found up the Taku River south of Juneau in 1994. They do not travel well in snow and are not good swimmers.  Limited areas of suitable habitat exist in other areas of Alaska, such as around Tok, but no fishers have been reported there. (Woodford 2006)

Names: Family Mustelidae (the mustelids) Name may come from “fitch”, the European polecat, which is a different animal.  The French term for a polecat pelt is “ficheux” or “fichet”.  Often called “fisher cats” in the New England area.  Oddly, fishers don’t swim, don’t like water and don’t fish. (Woodford 2010)  Other names include Pekan or Pennant’s marten (MacDonald and Cook 2009).

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