WOODCHUCK

 

Under Construction May 2011

WOODCHUCK

Marmota monax

GUARD HAIR

Length: 30-40mm Tail hairs 40-45mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), at least 25mm (Tumlison 1983) Up to 40mm on rump, 75mm on tail, only 25 on belly (ASM#1)

Diameter Range: Up to 150 microns on the rump, more typically 80-100.  Only 65 microns on paw guard hair.  Tail up to 170 microns.  (ASM#1)

Medullary Index: Very variable.  0.46 to 0.75 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Has cortical intrusions, but mostly the edge of the medulla is slightly wavy.  Medulla is heavily pigmented, has irregular flattened cells up to 4 across.  Tail guard hairs do not appear to have a medulla, but are very pigmented. In many pigmented areas, the center seems lighter in color. Tail guard hairs seem to have no medulla, but heavy pigmentation?  (ASM#1)

Color: Light band in upper shaft usually distinctly white, with transition to brown normally abrupt, and brown usually continues to base but is occasionally brown by a lighter or tan region. (Tumlison 1983).  Guard hairs banded.  On the rump, the pattern is black near base, then yellow, then black then yellowish white at the tip.  Black bands are much wider than yellowish white ones.  On the belly, the guard hairs are black near base and then yellow, in a roughly half and half ratio.  Pigment under the microscope is clustered close to the medulla, and in the medulla as well (ASM #1).  Many guard hairs have white band of 5mm at the tip, with the extreme tip having pigment granules….distinctive of the woodchuck (Mathiak 1938).  Base dark brown, then skinny brown band and a black band in the middle, and the 1/3 a the tip is light brown.  Tail hairs are dark with a light brown tip (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969).

Scales:  Near the base, scales are 2-3 across with wide spaces between scale margins and smooth edges to the scale margins.  Close to the tip, the scale margins get ragged and very close together  (ASM #1).

UNDERFUR

Length: 25mm (ASM #1)

Diameter Range: Very variable, maximum 48 microns (ASM #1) 

Medullary Index: Variable, 0.3 to 0.5 (ASM #1)

Medulla: There are examples of underfur with no medulla, uniserial ladder medulla, and even a more letterform like medulla where cellular shapes look with capital letters X,Y,M,H and so on.  These may be secondary hairs of intermediate size?

Color: Banded, with grey-black near the base (half to a third of the length) and the rest yellowish buff or reddish yellow to the tip. 

Scales: widely spaced stacked crowns with smooth margins and rounded tips.

Macro Qualities: 18 – 25.7” long.  Buff tips on guard hairs, bushy dark brown or black tail, black feet (Forsyth 1999).  Up to 26” long (smaller than the marmots in Alaska), with an overall reddish brown coloration and unmarked face (ADF&G 2008).  Black tail and feet.  Banding on the animal’s back: appears very dark near skin, the a pale beige-orange, then dark again, roughly in thirds.  Individual light tips of individual guard hairs really stand out.  That light area is sometimes only 3-5mm with a tiny bit of black again at the very tip.  Fur sparse on belly.  Very little underfur on tail.  Paw guard hairs taper evenly on both ends and are curved, rather like a large eyelash  (ASM #1).  Color from tips can appear in three bands: black-white-black or black-brown-black. Also might appear in five bands: black-white-black-white-black (Stains 1958).

Cultures:

Notes: ASM #1 is a partial pelt courtesy of Jerry Howard at AARRKK Taxidermy.  Syn Tan was used for preservation of the hide.  Occurrence in Alaska is “rare to uncommon” (MacDonald and Cook 2009).  

Troubleshooting:

Range: Only in limited interior areas (Forsyth 1999). Band of territory between the Yukon and Tanana rivers and from Nenana southeast toward the Alaska-Yukon border (MacDonald and Cook 2009). River valleys in dry lowlands of east central Alaska (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Rodentia (the rodents)  The name ground hog or groundhog more common in the eastern United States. Marmots and the woodchuck are all members of the squirrel family (Sciuridae) (ADF&G 2008). Oddly, they do not chuck wood or even live in the woods (Woodford 2010).

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