Under construction May 2011


Ursus maritimus


Length: 30mm max (Brown 1942), 80-100mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 90-170mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 80-200 microns (Brown 1942) 125-175 microns (ASM #1 neck), 75-100 microns (ASM #1 belly), 125 microns (ASM#2).

Medullary Index: 0.37 ave (Brown 1942). 0.37 (ASM #1 neck)

Medulla: Continuous flattened globular cells rather uniform in size (Brown 1942). Continuous with intricate small cells, could be described as “highly vacuolated”(having many air spaces) similar to beaver. Has many small filamentous squiggly lines and some egg shaped voids that appear white (ASM #1 neck). The medulla is 65 microns in diameter on ASM #1 neck). In ASM #2 the medulla appears as fragmentary in the form of small slivers/dashes or long flattened disks, measured at 10 microns in diameter.

Color: Transparent cortex, not pigmented but may have fusi. Transparent (ASM #1 neck). Belly fur shows pink and blue pastel colors throughout the cortex (ASM #1 belly).

Scales: Scales torn paper-like and very jagged at the margins. The scales are consistent throughout the length of the fiber. (ASM samples)  Need to see if this might help distinguish form other bears’ scales, which may be smooth edged near the base?  Need to look at more polar bear scales to make sure they don’t get smooth edged near the base.


Length: 20-30mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 44-120 microns (Brown 1942) 32.5 microns (ASM #1 neck)

Medullary Index: 0.36 ave (Brown 1942). 0.30 (ASM#1 neck).

Medulla: Brown calls the cells “thin plinths” (Brown 1942). Medulla appearance changes throughout the length of the fiber. It begins interrupted in long globular shapes, then changes to a more continuous uniserial ladder that in places looks like flat and thick coiled telephone cord from when telephones had those plastic coated cords that always bunched and tangled (ASM #1 neck).

Color: Pigment in the cortex but not the medulla. Translucent, no pigment visible

Scales: Stacked crowns or diamond petal shapes.

Macro Qualities: Animal is 6.5 -9.8 feet long (Forsyth 1999)  8- 10 feet long (ADF&G 2008)  Coloration is white in winter, but can be yellowish or golden in summer and fall (Forsyth 1999)  Guard hairs and underfur very shiny, almost glittery, under reflected light, rough and bristle-like (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)


Notes: ASM #1 is from I-B-476 on a taxidermy polar bear in off site storage, ASM #2 is from the education collection, a paw including the claws, ASM #3 is from a reference slide made by Alaska State Archaeologist Dave McMahan.

Troubleshooting: Arctic fox distinguished from polar bear: the latter’s shaft diameter is much larger  (80-200 microns, as opposed to fox at only 37-132) and medulla is skinnier (polar bear at 0.37 and arctic fox at 0.61)

Range: Only the North Slope and the Seward Peninsula (Forsyth 1999)  As far south as St Lawrence Island and possibly the Kuskokwim Delta (ADF&G 2008) 

Names: Family Ursidae (the ursids)  Used to be given its own genus, Thalarctos, but now is considered to be within the genus Ursus and thought to be evolved from brown bears and can breed with them (ADF&G 2008).


Under Construction May 2011


Castor canadensis


Length: 50mm max (Mayer 1952), 65mm max (Tumlison 1983), 40-100 (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 63mm max (Moore et al 1974), 40-55mm (ASM #1), 45-55mm (ASM #5)

Diameter Range: 190 microns max  (Mayer 1952), 189 microns (Moore et al 1974), 100-165 microns (ASM #1), 140 microns (ASM #5)

Medullary Index: about 0.33 (Mayer 1952) 0.35 (ASM #1) 0.41 (ASM #5)

Medulla:  Less than a third the diameter of the shaft (Mayer 1952). 35-40 microns in diameter (ASM #1) Medulla appears to be continuous with what Brown ( 1942) describes as a “froth” , which consists of “various sized bubbles” some of these bubbles are air filled and some are not. The medulla has the quality of many fine squiggly stacked lines (like an Egon Shiele drawing) with clusters of color ranging from brown to a light grey distributed throughout (ASM #1).  The cells of the medulla are easier to see in polarized light where they appear as “H” shapes and elongated “X” shapes with tiny bubbles in filling the voids. (ASM #1) Medulla rather skinny, and the edges are wavy and not smooth.  Closer to the tip the medulla might have gaps. (Teerink 1991). Can be hard to see individual cells, appears more like a light/dark mottled look.  Edges of medulla are squiggly and interrupted as it tapers out near the tip. (ASM #5) Medulla might be fragmental or absent right before the shield (Moore et al 1974)

Color: Unbanded. Has a reddish brown color distributed throughout the cortex with darker brown granules distributed throughout (ASM #1).

Scales: Torn paper-like or seismograph like scales with many points to each scale. The scales are very undulose overall. The scales do not change much throughout the length of the fiber, but do appear to be closer together towards the distal end of the hair (ASM #1).  Scales have very jagged irregular edges and deep valleys and are closely packed for the entire length of the shaft, but the edges do get smooth near the tip (Teerink 1991).


Length: 10-20mm (ASM #1) Sheared 10-15mm (ASM #2) 20-25mm (ASM #5)

Diameter Range: 10-12.5 microns (ASM #2) 10-17.5 microns (ASM # 3)

Medullary Index: 0.5 (ASM #2) 0.5 (ASM #3)

Medulla: Bead-like medulla. Medulla appears like stacks of “Q”s interlocked, giving an appearance of a medulla that is somewhere between the uniserial ladder and a string of beads. (ASM #1).  Cargille reference set sample (ASM #3) had combo of hairs with elongated dark bead-like medulla cells and no pigment visible, and slightly wider hairs that have streaky brown pigment and a sporadic, highly interrupted medulla.

Color: Some of the fibers have a reddish brown streaky quality distributed throughout the cortex

Scales: Some of the mounted fibers show flaring pointed scales, while others are not apparent-scale cast may be necessary (ASM #2).

Macro Qualities: 37-45” long (Forsyth 1999) 3-4 feet long including the tail (ADF&G 2008).  Prime when water is the coldest in early spring.  Best beaver fur is in the late spring?  In the winter, there are dark spots on the head and rump.  In the fall, they are dark on the back and have scanty guard hair.  Females have darker pelts? In sheared beavers the guard hair is plucked and shearing cuts off the kinky underfur tips that have a tendency to mat. Shearing also makes the fur look more like otter.  The base of the underhair fibers on the belly are silvery, and the shearing is sometimes done closer in this area to bring out the silvery shade. The belly of the beaver is always well-furred.   Good “serviceability” according to Bachrach (1953) The guard hairs seem to appear in clumps that are tight together where they emerge from the skin but splay out towards the tips.  The underfur is often a pale brown gray and has kinky curly brown tips.  (ASM #1) Guard hairs may have a short black tip and a long band of lustrous brown (Stains 1958).  Tip of hair from a beaver’s belly tapers gradually and evenly, while tip of a hair from a mink’s side mink tapers abruptly (Stains 1958).  Samet (1950) says that beaver was an early substitute for otter, with the underfur pulled out and only the guard hairs used.  This seemed odd, as the guard hairs might have seemed rather sparse?  He reports that ironing will straighten curly areas during processing.  Underfur is lighter than guard hairs.  Because the guard hairs are often plucked, beaver fur will mat with exposure to the rain.  Highest quality fur felt hats are made from beaver fur.  Lower quality are made from rabbit.

Cultures: For example: Yup’ik upriver hunters (p.245) Used as boot soles in tundra regions.  Beavers skins also used for headgear (p.258) from  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 another piece from the pelt ring, ASM #3 is from Cargille Reference Set F-5 commercial furs, ASM #4 is from an old slide in the ASM conservation lab, ASM #5 is from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum touchboard. Pelts often sheared for commercial use.  Bachrach (1953) says that the industry clips the tips of the underfur to prevent matting of those kinky tips. 

Troubleshooting:  Bear hair has scale margins much farther apart?  Medullary index in the rodents tends to be 0.6 to 0.9, and a narrower medulla might be a useful clue for the beaver and the raccoon, whose medulla is in the 0.3 to 0.4 range.  Beaver guard hair often has a golden yellow (almost glowing) appearance to the cortex, and the medulla may be interrupted.   Unfortunately, the guard hair is sometimes plucked or sheared from beaver fur when used on artifacts and garments.  Samet (1950) describes “mouton” as a beaver-processed sheepskin where shearling lab (fur after its first shearing) has certain qualities similar to beaver or fur seal.

Range: Mostly interior, Southeast panhandle, and Kenai peninsula (Forsyth 1999)  Most of the forested portions of the state.  Introduced in the Kodiak area in 1925. (ADF&G 2008)

Names: Order Rodentia (the rodents)  NOT the mountain beaver, who lives further south (Forsyth 1999)  French beaver is actually rabbit plucked and dyed to look like beaver (Samet 1950).  Velvety soft pile underfur such as comes from beaver is sometimes called “duvet” by the fur industry.


Under Construction May 2011


Bison bison


Length: 60 mm maximum (Mayer 1952), 80-90mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 30-160mm (Moore et al 1974), 80-90mm (ASM #1)

Diameter Range: Max 110 microns (Mayer 1952), 60-110 microns (Moore et al 1974), 75- 90 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.38 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Approximately 35 microns in diameter. Can be off-center. Present, continuous and black in transmitted light (indicating that it is air-filled) difficult to see any features (ASM #1)

Color: Brown

Scales: Scales have closely spaced margins and are very jagged with the torn paper-like edges. The scales are consistent from the proximal to distal end. (ASM #1)



Length: 20-30mm (ASM #1)

Diameter Range: 8-16 microns (Furskin 2006), 30-35 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: No medulla

Medulla: No medulla

Color: Brown longitudinal striations of various thickness, denser near the cuticle (ASM #1)

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities: Animal can be 6.5 -12.5 feet long (Forsyth 1999)  Full grown bull wood bison are up to 10 feet long, but plains bison are somewhat smaller.  Newborns have a reddish orange coat until about 10-15 weeks of age.  Adult bison has a dark brown coat in late fall that gets lighter over the winter and is shed in late spring  (ADF&G 2009) Hair might be coiled like a spring, helix in shape (Moore et al 1974)


Notes: ASM #1 is from the ASM education collection pelt ring

Troubleshooting:  Narrower shaft than other artiodactyla.  Underfur fairly uniform in appearance, lightly pigmented and no medulla in the underfur, whereas the muskox has much more variation in the underfur. 

Range: In 1928, nineteen plains bison were transplanted from Montana to present-day Delta Junction.  Wild bison are the descendants of these.  Additional transplants have occurred in Copper River, Chitina River and Farewell.  Small domestic herd exist in agricultural areas of the mainland and on Kodiak and Popov Islands.  (ADF&G 2009)

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Bovidae (the bovids)  Also called Bos bison (Forsyth 1999)  American bison are sometimes called “buffalo” but more accurately that term belongs to the genus Bubalus that includes water buffalo and African buffalo and is not present in North America.  Two modern subspecies of American bison are the plains bison (Bison bison bison) and the wood bison (Bison bison athabascae)  Wood bison once existed in Interior and Southcentral Alaska up until a few hundred years ago, but have not yet been reintroduced. (ADF&G 2009)


Under Construction May 2011


Rangifer tarandus granti


Length: 60mm max (Furskin 2006), 120-130mm mane hair in the winter (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 20-30mm (ASM #1 back), 65-80 (ASM #1 tail), 30-40mm (ASM #6)

Diameter Range: 150-220 microns (Furskin 2006),170 to 270 microns (Meeks and Cartwright 2005) 275 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Medulla not the typical dark line of cells, but large open cells in polygon shapes like bubble-pack.  Distinctive cusp-like features, as if the cells are pushing up against each other and making sharp ridges, rather like a faceted gemstone.

Color: Not heavily pigmented.  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) suggest that the hairs in the winter are banded white and light grey?

Scales: Scales have a definite narrow fish-scale look to them, and the big polygon shapes of the medulla should not be mistaken for the scales.  Scales have smooth edges and are often only a few across when viewed through the microscope, looking like squat polygons. 


Length: 20-30mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 10-20mm (ASM #1 back), 5-15mm (ASM #1 tail), 30-45mm (ASM #4), 10-15mm (ASM #6)

Diameter Range: 10-15 microns (Furskin 2006), 30 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: No medulla easily visible

Color: Brown pigmentation appearing in longitudinal orientation in wide dashes (ASM #1)  grey in winter?  (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities:  Even the snout has hair, which is unusual.  Animal is 4.5-6.7 feet long (Forsyth 1999)  In late fall, caribou are clove-brown with a white neck, rump and feet and often have a white flank stripe.  Newborn calves are usually reddish-brown. Dark brown in summer, whitish-gray or whitish brown in the winter (Furskin 2006)

Cultures: For example: Yup’ik dance fans decorated with caribou throat hair (pp 237-238), caribou leg-skins were made into high boots, sleeping bags for travel made by joining two caribou skins (p.258) and fur-side-out fancy parkas (p.259)  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, ASM #2 is from the ASM education collection, labeled “late fall/early winter coat”, ASM #3 is from ASM female taxidermy mount I-B-27 in off site storage, ASM #4 is from the ASM education collection, ASM #5 is from the education collection as an old slide with a leather cover, ASM #6 is from an old ASM conservation lab reference set, ASM #7 is from and old ASM conservation lab slide labeled “winter caribou”, ASM #8 is from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum touchboard.

 Round to oval in cross section.  Cellular walls are very thin.  There is a sub-cuticle layer of smaller cells whose edges line up with the edges of the surface scales, and then larger internal medulla cells, with one to three of these bridging the large internal gap.  Images suggest large abutting chambers with thin gauzy walls.  They refer to the structure as “bubble wrap.”  (Meeks and Cartwright 2005) Can be difficult to sample without pulling up bits of skin.

Troubleshooting:  Cusp-like or faceted gemstone look to the honeycomb medulla seems to distinguish caribou from other hoofed Alaskan animals.  Also, scales only two across seems to be special.  Maximum width of hair only 275 microns is smaller than maximum width for moose, deer or elk.

Range: Interior and North Slope only.  Caribou is the only cervid species native to the Aleutian Islands (Hall 1981).  Introduced to the Seward Peninsula between 1892 and 1902 (Dau et al. 2000).  Caribou prefer treeless tundra and mountains but some herds winter in the boreal forest (taiga)  (ADF&G 2008)

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Cervidae (the cervids.) Domesticated caribou are also known as reindeer in the United States, but the word “reindeer” is also used for wild caribou in Europe. Of the seven subspecies, Alaska has only the barren-ground caribou  (ADF&G 2008).


Under Construction May 2011


Bos taurus


Length: 30-40mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969) 20-140 (Moore et al 1974)

Diameter Range: 35-40 microns (ASM#1) 35-75 microns (Furskin 2006) 80 microns (ASM #2) 60-130 microns (Moore et al 1974)

Medullary Index: 0.5 (ASM #1) 0.15 to 0.3 (ASM #2))

Medulla: Interrupted 10 microns diameter (ASM #1) Continuous 20 microns diameter (ASM #1) Wavy edge and gets thick and thin, sometimes it is interrupted.  Quite a bit of the tip of the hair has no medulla. Some hairs have no medulla, some interrupted and some have a continuous medulla that can be very dark.  (ASM #2)  Medulla usually extends into the root? (Hicks 1977)

Color: Brown overall. Large clumps of pigment granules and air spaces scattered throughout the cortex.  Hicks (1977) says that there are large ovoid structures in cows especially. Not banded (Moore et al 1974)

Scales: Coronet or stacked-cups in shape. Wavy or very irregular margins.


Length: 15-35mm (Furskin 2006)

Diameter Range: 14-28 microns (Furskin 2006)

Medullary Index:

Medulla: present, not enough sample to characterize

Color: similar to guard hairs (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Scales: Stacked crowns.

Macro Qualities: Low “serviceability” (Bachrach 1953) Calves have no underfur? (Samet 1953)

Cultures: Sometimes seen on the fancy trim or cutwork of parkas, where contrasting light and dark caribou hair was traditionally used before the more dramatic black/white contrast of the cow hair was available.

Notes: ASM #1 from the ASM education collection II-E-31, ASM #2 from the Carolina Biological Supply Co reference set without underfur, ASM #3 is from the ASM education collection.

Troubleshooting: Moore et al (1974) say cow and horse may be distinguished by the wide unbroken medulla in the base of horse hair.

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Bovidae (the bovids)



Under Construction May 2011


Canis latrans incolatus



Length: less than 100mm (Mayer 1952), 50-70mm with mane hair 80-110mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 80mm (Moore et al 1974), 80-115mm on back and 55-95mm on sides with 17-80mm on belly (Kennedy 1982), 60-70mm typical but up to 105mm max (ASM #1 back), 80-120mm (ASM #1 tail)

Diameter Range: 150 microns max (Mayer 1952), 129 microns maximum (Moore et al 1974), Minimum shaft diameter averages about 73% of the maximum shaft width (Tumlison 1983), 150-228 microns (ASM#1), tip 20 microns, base 125 microns (ASM #1).

Medullary Index: 0.69 ave (Brown 1942) 0.65 to 0.72 (ASM #1)

Medulla: Usually more than four “courses” of cells across the medulla at the maximum diameter. Cells of medulla separated by pigment masses. (Brown 1942)  Continuous/interrupted medulla fibers.  Medulla measured at base of hair 85microns in diameter, appears as continuous and dark appearance makes it difficult to detect any cellular features that may be diagnostic (ASM #1).

Color:  Dark band near tip less than 23mm long, lighter band near tip less than 15mm (Mayer 1952). 10-20mm white band at base, then black band for several mm, then a white band 10-20mm, and finally a black tip (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969).  Banded with white base, gray-brown band in mid shaft, black tip (Moore et al 1974). Dark tip is 18mm long, then a small white band 4mm long (ASM#1).  

Scales: Edges vary from smooth to torn-paper like, scale margins close together.  At the base and in the middle, the scales are roughly as wide as they are tall, but become close together and seem wider near the tip. 


Length: 35-50mm (ASM #1 back) 28-35mm (ASM #1 tail)

Diameter Range: 28-100 microns (Brown 1942) 25-30 microns (ASM#1)

Medullary Index: Ave 0.48 (Brown 1942) 0.33 (ASM #1)

Medulla: 10 microns diameter. Uniserial ladder with closely spaced cells. Some of the cells are air filled and others are not.

Color:  Absent in the cortex but sometimes present in the medulla. (Brown 1942) No color present in the medulla or cortex ( ASM#1)  Should be white or various shades of grey? (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969).

Scales: Can be seen flaring out from the shaft at the tip, they appear petal like from the mounted sample and the length of the scales were measured at about 25 microns (from tip to tip).  Scale cast looks more like stacked cups, many scales lay flat along shaft (ASM #1)  Underfur scales are likely intermediate between stacked crowns and petal shapes.

Macro Qualities: 3.4 -4.5 feet long (Forsyth 1999)  About a third the size of a wolf, Approximately 4’ long.  Summer coat predominantly gray, washing to tan along the belly lower legs muzzle and ears.  Some guard hairs are tipped black, and the tail is tipped black.  Upper lip and belly are white. (ADF&G 2008)  Coat is bristly and coarse on the back but silky on the sides.  Mane is long and wedge-shaped rather than the half-moon shape seen on the wolf.  Underfur fibers are shorter than the wolf, so the guard hair does not stand up as bushy.  Fair “serviceability”(Bachrach 1953)  Tail fur may have a black tip less than one inch long, and may have large waves near the base.  The lack of these waves is thought to be typical raccoon who may also have a black tip on a back hair less than one half inch long (Stains 1958).  Primary and secondary guard hairs are slightly wavy (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)


Notes: ASM #1 is from a full pelt in the ASM education collection

Relative new-comers around 1900, with populations established in the Alaska Range around 1930’s (Rearden 1981).  Populations first reported on mainland of Southeast Alaska, then into the upper Tanana Valley and then in all directions from there.  Population probably peaked in the 1940’s.  Few north of the Yukon River.  Highest densities in recent times seem to be the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys and the Copper River Valley  (ADF&G 2008).

Troubleshooting: To distinguish from raccoon on a banded hair, the white area right before the dark tip ought to be less than 11mm long.  If it is longer than 11 mm, then the entire length of the coyote hair shaft ought to be more than 65mm to insure it is not raccoon.  Wolf guard hair ought to be longer overall with a bigger white band near the tip. (Mayer 1952)  Wolf is much larger than a coyote.  Measuring a sample, it seemed that the wolf had a black tip of 120mm and a white areas 15-20mm long, but coyote had 180mm dark tip and ,4mm white band.  Also, could it be that the primary and secondary guard hairs being wavy is a clue? (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Range: Interior and the Kenai Peninsula

Names: Order Carnivora (the carnivores) Family Canidae (the canids)  “Song dog” (ADF&G 2008)  “Brush Wolf” (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)


Under Construction May 2011


Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis


Length: 28mm for Odocoileus hemionus (Mayer 1952), 53mm Odocoileus hemionus hemionus (Moore et al 1974), 30-40mm (ASM#1), 40-50mm (ASM #3)

Diameter Range: Under 200 microns for Odocoileus hemionus (Mayer 1952), 299 microns Odocoileus hemionus hemionus (Moore et al 1974), 250-380 microns (ASM #1), 355 microns max (ASM #3)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Medulla is not the dark line down the center of many animals, but large cells with a honeycomb or bubble-pack look.  Much variation in size and overall polygonal shape of individual cells.  Cells have rounded edges and subtle parallel striations.  Seem to be s-curves between them in overall pattern, as opposed to zigzags or concentric patterns.  There are about 10-12 cells across a guard hair?  (ASM #3)

Color: White with areas of brown.  Deer and elk seem to be the only banded Alaskan hoofed animals.  Moore et al (1974) described the banding of Odocoileus hemionus hemionus as brownish gray at the base and yellow or dark yellow band in upper shaft with a black tip.

Scales:  Scales have a definite narrow fish-scale look to them, at least 5-6 across, usually with smooth edges.  The big polygon shapes of the medulla should not be mistaken for the scales under the microscope.


Length: 15-20mm (ASM #1 2009), 20-35mm (ASM #3 2009)

Diameter Range: 10-30 microns (ASM #2) 15 microns (ASM #3)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Rare but notable interrupted medulla, but the cuticle is very prominent. Many underfur hairs have no medulla.

Color:  Brown with segments of white

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities: Four pelages: natal, juvenile, adult summer and adult winter.  Spring molt involves guard hair follicles only with underfur shed by breakage.  Autumn molt involves all follicles.  Guard hairs increase in diameter from birth to adult winter pelage.  Adult summer pelage has the longest guard hair.  Color banding is the same sequence of four colors but different variations in the four pelages and on different areas of the body, with the most pronounced differences on different body areas of fawns (Cowan and Raddi 1972).  Summer coat of reddish-brown replaced by dark brownish gray in the winter  (ADF&G 2008).  Hairs have a kink, rather zig-zag shaped, very brittle. includes a photo of a white specimen said to be seen sometimes among deer of northern Admiralty Island. 


Notes: ASM #1 is from the ASM education collection pelt ring, ASM #2 is from the Sheldon Jackson Museum education collection touchboard, ASM #3 is from the Juneau-Douglas City Museum touchboard.  Mayer 1952 info about Odocoileus hemionus does not seem to apply to our Alaskan deer?

Troubleshooting: Most hoofed Alaskan mammals (except elk) won’t have banded guard hair, but not all guard hair sample of the deer will be banded.  Lack of medulla in the underfur is a clue.   Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) give data about white-tailed deer odocolieus virginianus: winter guard hair 60mm or more, white at base and becoming grey near the middle, with a dark brown 10mm band and then a black tip. underfur 10mm long.  Summer guard hair 40-45mm, and tail hair longer than 140mm.  Coloration in summer a rusty-fawn, no mention of banding.  Belly white.  (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)  Moore et al (1974) describe the white tailed deer as 77mm long and 291 microns wide.

Range: Wet coastal rainforests of Southeast Alaska, with range extended to Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Kodiak and Afognak Islands through transplants (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Cervidae (the cervids) The Sitka Black-Tailed Deer is a subspecies of mule deer.  There are no white-tailed deer in Alaska (Forsyth 1999)  Sometimes called a “mule deer” or a “Sitka deer” (MacDonald and Cook 2009)

Beware, there is also a “sika” deer that is Cervus nippon and it is found in Asia and Europe: a totally different animal. 


Under Construction May 2011


Canis lupus familiaris


Length: 45-60mm on mane (German shepherd of Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969) 35-40 mm (Labrador retriever of Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969) 29-70mm on back, 30-64mm on sides, 9-60mm on underside (German shepherd, husky and Labrador retrievers Kennedy 1982).

Diameter Range: 156-228 microns (Brown 1942) 87.5 – 97.5 microns (ASM #1) 70 microns (ASM #2) 60 microns (ASM #3)

Medullary Index: 0.69 ave. (Brown 1942). 0.6 (ASM #1) 0.5 (ASM #2) 0.42 (ASM #3)

Medulla: Usually more than four “courses” of cells across the medulla at the maximum diameter. Cells of medulla separated by pigment masses. (Brown 1942). 62.5 microns diameter and appearing in a continuous form with frothy appearance-could also be described as vacuolated though the cells are not very visible due to the dense distribution of pigment. The medulla has a continuous with stacked wedge/ oval shaped cells with dark (air filled) spaces in between. Each cell is about 5 microns long at max. A second fiber from showed a continuous medulla where it was not possible to detect any pattern in the structure at all due to darkness (ASM #1)  Some guard hairs may have no medulla.  Cells seem to be one across the medulla. (ASM #3)

Color: variable

Scales: Fat petal-shaped scales stand up a bit at the edges.  Near tip, scale margins get closer together.  On Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) the scale patterns of the German shepherd and the Laborador retriever, while both canid-looking, were distinct with the edges of the German shepherd scales much rougher and more jagged.


Length: 20-30mm on Laborador retriever (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969)

Diameter Range: 28-100 microns (Brown 1942) 27 to 57 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.48 ave. (Brown 1942). 0.35 to 0.45 (ASM #1)

Medulla: 25 microns. Medulla appears as vacuolated type with cells that are max height 5 microns. The cells are in a general stacked wedge shape, though there is much inconsistency. (ASM #1)

Color: Absent in the cortex but present in the medulla. Some streaky brownish coloration present in the cortex. (Brown 1942)  No pigment or else dots of pigment near the medulla (ASM #1)

Scales: Edges stand up a bit.  Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities:


Notes: ASM #1 is Ellen Carrlee’s dog, ZigZag, thought to be a mix of border collie, black lab and maybe husky.  From a rescue in northern California.  ASM #2 is an older slide with a leather cover in the conservation lab.  ASM #3 is from the Carolina Biological Supply reference set.

Troubleshooting: Guard hairs of some wild dogs have a wider medulla (more than half the shaft) than the fox (Dove and Peurach 2002). To distinguish from raccoon on a banded hair, the white area right before the dark tip ought to be less than 11mm long.  If it is longer than 11 mm, then the entire length of the hair shaft ought to be more than 65mm to insure it is not raccoon. (Mayer 1952).  Dog hair has a root that has a “spade” or cartoon-paintbrush shape? (Hicks 1977 calls it spade).  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) say the fur of a German Shepherd feels soft to the touch in contrast to wolves, coyotes, and hybrids.

Names: Order Carnivora (the carnivores) Family Canidae (the canids)


Under Construction May 2011


Cervus elaphus


Length: 70-80mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969), 67mm max (Moore et al 1974, Cervus elaphus nelsoni), Very long taper at tip (ASM #1) 105-110mm max on bell (ASM #2) 50-80mm neck (ASM #2) 15mm leg (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 357 microns max (Moore et al 1974, Cervus elaphus nelsoni), up to 400 microns on neck (ASM #1) 285 microns on neck, 140 microns on leg fur (ASM #2)

Medullary Index: N/A

Medulla: Bubble-pack style with cells forming a honeycomb pattern of polygons.  There seems to be S-shapes and concentric shapes in the overall pattern of lines between the cell boundaries. Hicks (1977) suggests this might be one of the only members of the deer family where we would expect to see some cortex occasionally?  The elk has intermediate hairs with a medulla that has some cortex around it.  A few hairs may even have a medulla that looks like tire tread.

Color: Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) say hair is white at the base, becoming dark brown closer to the tip with a light brown band 20mm wide in the tip third of the hair.  ASM #2 hairs seem banded or bicolor with the tip light colored.  Varying lengths of hair can make it look more banded than it is. 

Scales: Scale pattern does not change much along length.  The big polygon shapes of the medulla should not be mistaken for the scales.  Can have either smooth edges or rough edges to the fish scale-like pattern, sometimes looking like polygons.


Length: 26-30mm (Adorjan and Kolenosky 1969) 10-15mm (ASM #2)

Diameter Range: 17-25 microns (ASM #1)

Medullary Index: 0.4 (ASM #1) 0.7 (ASM #2)

Medulla: Intermediate sized hairs might have an off center or interrupted medulla, but the thinner hairs may be interrupted or have no medulla at all.  Fair to say the finer underfurs often have no medulla. Could the presence of intermediate-sized hairs be a clue?  

Color: Pale.  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) describe as light grey. 

Scales: Stacked crowns

Macro Qualities:  Much larger than deer or caribou, but not as large as moose.  Yellow rump patch, grayish to brownish body and dark brown legs and neck.  Young may have spotted areas. (ADF&G 2009) Length 8-10feet and weigh 600-1,100 lbs (

Cultures: For example: Elk hides used to make Tlingit armor, imported from the Southern NW Coast. Henrikson, Steve “Terrifying Visages: War Helmets of the Tlingit Indians.” American Indian Art Magazine. Vol. 19 No. 1 Winter 1993. 

Notes: ASM #1 is from a GPS collar collected by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Etolin Island in 2009. ASM #2 is from pelt hunted by Sven Haakinson Jr. on Afognak Island circa 2007.  Peak population of elk in 1960’s coincided with liberal hunting seasons that became more restricted in the 1970’s.  (ADF&G 2009)

Troubleshooting:  Could the presence of an intermediate sized underfur hair with a complex medulla may be the feature that distinguishes the elk from the other hoofed Alaskan mammals?  Adorjan and Kolenosky (1969) provide a detailed description of color change along the length of the guard hair that might be diagnostic, but we need more samples of various hoofed mammals to be certain.  Cross section may be heart-shaped? (Blazej et al 1989)

Range: Found on Afognak and Raspberry Islands (Rearden 1981).  All of the elk currently in Alaska were introduced by man.  Eight calves were captured on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in 1928 and moved to Afognak Island near Kodiak in 1929.  They are also now established on nearby Raspberry Island (ADF&G 2009).  Populations introduced on Etolin Island and Zarembo Island as well.  Apparently, Rocky Mountain Elk were also introduced.  (Matthew Tynan, “20 Years Later, Southeast Elk Population Maintaining.” Juneau Empire Feb 5, 2010) In 1987, Rocky Mountain Elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) were introduced to Etolin Island near Petersburg from capture in Oregon.  They are now also on Zarembo Island.  There is some discussion among biologists about possible interbreeding (ADF&G 2008).

Names: Order Artiodactyla (the even-toed ungulates) Family Cervidae (the cervids).  Cervus elaphus roosevelti (Rearden 1981)  Cervus Canadensis Roosevelt. Roosevelt elk are sometimes called Olympic Elk.  Elk are sometimes called “wapiti” in North America, and in the Adorjan and Kolenosky reference, for example (1969).  In Europe, the word “elk” is often used in reference to moose (ADF&G 2008). They are also sometimes called “Eastern Red Deer” (MacDonald and Cook 2009) 


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).