Under Construction May 2011


Vulpes vulpes


Length: Up to 80mm  (Brown 1942), 50mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 56mm max (Moore et al 1974), max 156mm (Hicks 1977, is he talking about tail hair?) 51-85mm back hair, 41-70mm on sides, 15-54 on belly (Kennedy 1982), 25-60mm (Toth 2002), 35-40mm (ASM #1), 40-48mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 108-220 (Brown 1942), 106 microns max (Moore et al 1974), 110 microns (Hicks 1977), 85-120 (Toth 2002), 40-85 microns (Furskin 2006), 40-60  (ASM #1), 60-72 (ASM#2)

Medullary Index: 0.74 (Brown 1942) 0.74 (Toth 2002) 0.5 to 0.66 (ASM #1) 0.61 (ASM #2) 0.77 (ASM #4) .076(ASM #6)

Medulla: 40 microns in diameter, medulla has stacked, wide, flattened oval shaped cells that span the width of the medulla. There is an undulose pocket of air that winds its way around the cells in a repeating “S” (ASM #1). Seldom more than two “courses” of cells across the medulla at maximum diameter.  Mostly uniform globular cells with occasional large flat cells.  In the widest part of the shaft, medulla may change drastically and look like very thin wafers with a few globular ones that go less than a third of the way across the medulla. (Brown 1942) Multicellular ladder turning into rounded or oval cells in the shield.  Medullar margins at the shield are straight or fringed. (Toth 2002)  Inhomogeneous overall shapes and they do not appear like flattened disks but rather as wide flattened shapes with no regular boundaries, and in some places appearing angular.

Color: Rusty red color appearing a bit streaky towards the outer part of the cortex ( ASM #1).  Basal half black, distal half orange or with a white band extending to tip?  Banding is tricolored: gray/brown at the base, then yellow/white and finally dark as black or brown in the shield and tip.  Sometimes the pale band is missing.  Base of the hair is never white or yellow (Toth 2002). Dark tip should be less than 6mm long  (Mayer 1952)  Cross Fox sample (ASM #2) had some samples that seemed red throughout, and others that did not appear to have much pigmentation and looked grey or white.  Some fibers show a medulla filed with reddish pigment that extends to the cortex, it is difficult to distinguish any features within the medulla of this kind of heavily pigmented fiber.  Silver fox (ASM #4) had some balls of pigment that seemed larger than dots, with a lighter center?  Also seen on red fox ASM #1.  Lower 10mm are white, rest is orange Some hairs from the back totally black, some from the underside are completely white (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969).  Base is brownish gray, upper shaft has a yellow band, tip is reddish brown (Moore et al 1974).

Scales: Broad petal and mosaic turning to irregular wave and then close irregular wave. (Toth 2002)  Pointy petal-shaped near the base, then becoming fat petals with smooth edges and then getting a more torn-paper look with closer scale margins near the tip (ASM #2).


Length: 20mm (Brown 1942) 30-40mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 15-20mm (ASM #1) 22-25mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 20-40 microns (Brown 1942), 12-19 microns (Furskin 2006), 10-12.5 microns (ASM #1) 17-32 microns (ASM #2)

Medullary Index: 0.70 ave (Brown 1942) 0.4 (ASM #1) 0.57 (ASM # 2)

Medulla:  Continuous column of cylindrical plinths?? (Brown 1942). 5 microns wide (ASM #1) Uniserial ladder with clear spaces between the cells, some underfur has no medulla or intermittent in some areas. (ASM #1).  10 microns wide with a uniserial ladder (ASM #2)

Color:  Reddish in the cortex close to the medulla (ASM #1, #2).  Dark grey, beige or white (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Scales: Appears to be stacked crown shapes from the mounted samples, but some are likely intermediate between stacked crowns and petal shapes..

Macro Qualities: 3 – 3.6 feet long (Forsyth 1999) Three color phases: Red Fox has yellow to rusty red head and neck, yellowish red back and chest and belly white with black on the lower legs and backs of ears.  Cross Fox is grayish brown with long black guard hairs forming a cross shape between the shoulders.  Silver Fox is all black except for a white tip on the tail or some frosting.  Sometimes appear completely black.  The red fox is the only north American canid with a white tip on its tail.  (Forsyth 1999) 22-32” and the tail is 14-16” long.  The black-silver phase is more common in the northern areas of the state, but is only 2% of the red fox population overall (ADF&G 2008) Red fox fur is desired for the graceful silky flow of the guard hairs with the movement of the wearer. Alaskan fox is the most beautiful taken in North America, with the exception of “Island Foxes” from the southern coast, the Aleutian Islands, and the Bering Sea where the animals have a coarse wirelike fur that only fetches a third the price. The idea that a white fox turns into a blue fox in the summer is mistaken. (however, summer phase arctic fox are often called blue, so what does Bacharach mean?) So is the idea that a cross fox is a cross between a red fox and a silver fox.  Blue fox ranching began in Alaska as early as 1865  Fair “serviceability” (Bachrach 1953)  the red fox does not turn white in the winter.  If you have a white fox, it is probably an arctic fox, but there is a remote chance of having an albino red fox.  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) say that the underfur stems are usually matted together.  Samet (1950) reports that Charles Dalton began the silver fox industry in 1887 on Alaska’s Prince Edward Island.  Robert Oulton also began on Savage Island around then.  Silver fox is a recessive coloration, and the tips of the silver fox hairs are never white, always black or brown.  Exposure to camphor will reportedly turn silver fox fur reddish.

Cultures: For example: Yup’ik men captured these small furbearers in the fall (p.245)  Fienup-Riordan (2007) Yuungnaqpiallerput: The Way We Genuinely Live.  Masterworks of Yup’ik Science and Survival.  Anchorage Museum Association. 

Notes: ASM #1 is Red Fox from the education touch board at the Sheldon Jackson Museum, ASM #2 is Cross Fox from the education touch board at the Sheldon Jackson Museum, ASM #3 is a vintage slide with a leather cover from the education collection, ASM #4 is silver fox from the Cargille Reference Set F-5 of commercial fur hairs. ASM #5 is from an old set of slides in the conservation lab, ASM #6 is from the head of a fox from the Memeluck Fur Store in Juneau.

Troubleshooting: Shaft diameter much wider on wolverine than on fox  (Mayer 1952): The dark tip on a red fox guard hair should be less than 6mm long.  If it is longer but still less than 20mm, it’s probably raccoon.  If it is longer but greater than 20mm, the animal is a different canid (dog, wolf, coyote).  Arctic fox hair will sometimes have petal shaped scales for the entire length of the guard hair (secondary guard hair?), instead of just the base as in red fox.  Some arctic fox guard hairs will look like red fox hairs.  Scales not as long and pointy near the base as the arctic fox?  Lynx has large globular cells in the medulla at the widest part of the shaft that are different from the smaller globules in the red fox that only go a third of the way across the width of the medulla.  Sometimes red fox furs were “pointed” with glued-on badger hairs to simulate the appearance of natural silver fox.  Samet (1950) mentions this pointing was also done to “Sitka dyed” fox furs, referring to a color foxes were dyed to look natural.

Range: Most of Alaska except for some islands of Southeast Alaska and the western Aleutians.  Rare in Prince William Sound.  Introduced to many islands in the early 1900s (ADF&G 2008).  Generally not seen in Southeast Alaska (MacDonald and Cook 2009)

Names: Order Carnivora (the carnivores) Family Canidae (the canids)  Color variants are silver fox and cross fox (Forsyth 1999).  European Red Fox is the same as the American Red Fox (ADF&G 2008) What is vulpes fulva?  Some say vulpes vulpes is the European and Asiatic fox, and vulpes fulva is the North American one (Bachrach 1953) Note: this is in opposition to the 2008 ADF&G wildlife notebook.  Moore et al (1974) in describing mammals of Wyoming call the red fox vulpes fulva.




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