Under Construction May 2011


Neovison vison


Length: 25-30mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 30mm max (Moore et al 1974), max 30mm (Hicks 1977), at least 16 mm (Tumlison 1983), 15-25mm with tail hairs up to 25mm (ASM #1), 25-30mm (ASM #4)

Diameter Range: 143 max (Moore et al 1974) Hicks (1977) says the shield ought to be 4-5X the diameter of the stalk, with the shield 143 microns maximum (Hicks is using the Moore et al data?). Max 108 microns ave 82 microns Proximal (root end) is very fine for the first third of the hair, then it gets 4-5X wider, and finally tapers to a pointed tip.  This larger portion is called the “shield” (Tumlison 1983). ASM #1 diameter 90-100 microns for hairs in the chest area and butt area respectively.

Medullary Index: Mayer (1952) reports the maximum medullary width is two-thirds total shaft width.  4.5-6.0 (ASM #1).

Medulla: Cells in the medulla not separated by pigment masses, like we see in canids. ASM#1 medulla is 45 microns.  The medulla from the chest area is continuous with closely stacked thin bubble shaped “X,Y, and H” letters. Also could be described as tiny fingers of the cortex penetrating into the medulla from either side squashing the cells into bubble letter shapes.

Medulla from the butt area of ASM#1 is 60 microns in diameter and has a continuous medulla with at least 3-4 cells present going across the width of the medulla. Each of these cells are generally rounded or tube like, but do not have very distinctive shapes. Each is surrounded by a dark border (similar to the marten) but the shapes are not fish-scale like at all.

Color: Red and brown throughout the cortex and medulla, pigment appears to be absent at the cuticle margin. Never banded (Mathiak 1938).

Scales: Elongated petal-shaped individual scales in the fine area near the skin, then change to tile-shaped scales with jagged edged scale margins in the shield area.  Looking at scale cast, scales change along the length of the fiber from individual petal-like scales to the torn paper-like scales (ASM).  Rough scale edges of the middle- and tip-area scales on Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) look more bumpy than toothy.


Length: under an inch long (ADF&G 2008). 5mm on tail to 12mm on back (ASM#1) 10-15mm (ASM #4)

Diameter Range: 12.5 (ASM #2)

Medullary Index: 0.6 (ASM #2)

Medulla: 7.5 microns (ASM #2) Uniserial ladder.  On one unusual sample from the chest, there was interrupted medulla.

Color: Translucent-no pigmentation present.

Scales: Petal-like, each petal measured at 50 microns from tip to tip. They are tine shaped (one long prominent petal sticks up out of a wide shaft?)


Macro Qualities: 16.5 – 24.4” long not including tail (Forsyth).  19-29” long. Underfur is wavy and dark gray to light brown with some suggestion of light and dark bands (ADF&G 2008).  Female mink and 1/3 smaller and their shades are darker. The famed “Aleutian” mink is also known as “Lutetia” and is a gunmetal gray color.  Good “serviceability” (Bachrach 1953).  Guard hairs rather widely spaced individually?  (ASM #1) Tip of hair from a beaver’s belly tapers gradually and evenly, while tip of a hair from a mink’s side tapers abruptly (Stains 1958).  Guard hairs brown, underfur grey to light grey (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969).  In the Mackenzie River of Canada, the animal may be blonde/blue. Saltwater areas give reddish fur and sweet (fresh) water areas give a darker fur.  Guard hairs may be scattered throughout the underfur. (Samet 1950).

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 from the ASM education collection pelt ring, ASM #2 is from the Sheldon Jackson museum touchboard, ASM #3 is from the Cargille Reference Set F-5 commercial furs, ASM #4 is from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum touchboard

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.  One mink sample had an absent or fragmentary medulla in the stalk region.  The underfur of the marten (15-25mm) seems longer than the underfur of the mink (less than 15mm) and this may be a clue.  Generally, guard hairs on the mink will not exceed 25mm, perhaps extending to 30mm on the tail.  If the length of the guard hairs is longer, marten is more likely?

Range: All of Alaska except the North Slope and Kodiak Island (Forsyth 1999).  Most of Alaska except for Kodiak Island, Aleutian Islands, offshore islands of the Bering Sea, and most of the Arctic Slope (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Family Mustelidae (the mustelids)   1kg or 2.25lbs approx 24” long without tail.  What about mustela vision? Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) calls this mink.  Appears to be a synonym…they are deciding whether this creature needs its own genus?  Samet (1950) mentions alternates names as “belette” (early French), “vison” (modern French), “nertz” or marsh otter in German, and “maenk” or “mank” in Swedish. 

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