SQUIRREL, NORTHERN FLYING

 

Under Construction May 2011

NORTHERN FLYING SQUIRREL

Glaucomys sabrinus yukonensis

GUARD HAIR

Length: 15-21mm (Moore et al 1974), 20-30mm, longest hairs in lower back and rump area (ASM#1)

Diameter Range: 36-53 (Moore et al 1974), 45-60 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.66 to 0.75 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Hard to see unless penetrated by the mounting medium.  Up to 4 cells across.  There are definite intermediate sized hairs that have a more “zipper” look depending on how the medium can penetrate them, and these have medulla cells only two across.

Color: Pigment present

Scales: Mid shaft the scales are smooth edges and 1-2 across forming parallel diagonals that sometimes shift pitch back and forth.  Closer to the tip, the scales become closer together and the edges get very irregular and jagged.

UNDERFUR

Length: 5-7mm (ASM#)

Diameter Range: 10-15 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index:

Medulla: have a medulla, typical uniserial ladder

Color: Macro view looks very gray uniformly

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities: 8.3 – 10.1” long. Back is cinnamon brown color, hairs are slate with light yellow brown tips.  Light buff underbelly with lead-colored hairs at the base.  Gray tail is pale underneath and darker near tip (Forsyth 1999).  Average 12” long. Silky and thick pelage with top of body light brown to cinnamon colored, sides grayish and underside whitish (ADF&G 2008).  Samet (1950) describes the prime pelt as grizzled blackish gray and the unprimed as tawny orange.  ASM #1 sample courtesy of AMNH sample 127775, a female, mocha colored with patches of light brown and grey underfur and a blonde belly.

Cultures: For example: “Flying squirrels are the latest fur to be added to the list of pelteries available for women’s wear.  This fur is light and the pelt is thin and pliable.  It is being used as trimming in connection with capes of chiffon, for which it is particularly adopted.  The squirrels come from Japan and other Asiatic countries.  William Platley recently imported some 10,000 of the skins”  (Fur News, June 1916).  Obviously, those are not the flying squirrels we have in Alaska, but reported here to indicate there were commercial uses for flying squirrel pelts.  Samet (1950) says they were usually dyed to imitate white and blue fox, and were used as trimmings and capes.  Juneau historian Jim Geraghty mentioned in 2009 that the late furrier Don Davis told him the fur of this creature was silky and luxurious like chinchilla, but the skin was tissue-thin and so it was impossible to work with.  (Samet 1950 mentions the same thing). The Mount Juneau Trading Post staff say that flying squirrel was perhaps used on the ruff of some Anuktuvuk masks?

Notes: ASM #1 is from the American Museum of Natural History female number 127775

Troubleshooting: Squirrels (Arctic Ground, Northern Flying and Red) have shorter guard hairs than the other rodents observed, with a length not exceeding 30mm except on the tail where it might reach 35mm on the arctic ground squirrel and 45 mm on the red squirrel.  Underfur of squirrels also may have a distinct brownish tip after a seemingly colorless shaft for most of its length.  Squirrels may also have intermediate sized hairs with long narrow interrupted or uniserial ladder medulla near the base until the shield where the medulla looks like tire tread.  Distinguishing among the squirrels: arctic ground squirrel underfur has no medulla.  Northern flying squirrel is gray in color?  To distinguish squirrel from muskrat, observe the underfur.  Often, muskrat underfur has a gray appearance to the naked eye with a hint of cool lavender purple.  Under magnification, the underfur often has no medulla, or a few fibers will have an interrupted medulla. 

Range: Panhandle, Kenai Peninsula, Lower interior area (Forsyth 1999).  Interior Alaska, generally near rivers and streams (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Rodentia (the rodents) Other names: Canadian Flying Squirrel, Fairy Diddle, Fairy Glider, Grand Polatouche (French Canadian) as reported at flyingsquirrels.com 2010.  Moore et al (1974) describe characterisitics of fur from a Northern Flying Squirrel called Glaucomys sabrinus bangsi

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