The first sighting of the famous Gowanus muskrat was during an Expedition Gowanus meeting that was being hosted on the boat in the summer of 2010. All eyes turned towards the water as a mysterious mammal swam right past the window and disappeared into the bulkheads south of the boat. At that time, we had no idea what it was. Ironically enough, the meeting that the mysterious animal interrupted was focused on planning the structure that would later support the boats floating garden/phytoremediation experiments. It was in this floating garden, a year later, that the animal was sighted again. It was actually eating away (or attracted to?) our phyto projects! Early in the morning, and one stalk at a time, the muskrat chewed at the garden’s phragmites and swam it back to its home somewhere in the bulkhead. There was plenty of time to snap photos and catch some super 8 footage. Excited to share the news with other local conservation/ecology groups who would find significance in the sighting, a photo was passed around via email. The story was soon picked up and ‘Go Go the Muskrat’ (as in ‘Go Go Gowanus’) became a (very local) overnight star.
by Vince Musacchia and Six Packed Panels as seen in the Red Hook Star-Revue
In an email, Gowanus activist and urban planner Eymund Diegel stated that ‘the muskrat (Ondatra zibethica) is probably from the family of 6 that have been living in Brooklyn Bridge Park as of February 2011. Which means there are probably other ones along the Red Hook shoreline as well. There is also a known population in Spring Creek Park Preserve in Jamaica Bay, on the Brooklyn Queens border.
I thought they lived off aquatic plants like cattails, (it may have been attracted to stay by your floating gardens). They are also known to live off mussels, which is maybe what’s keeping it alive.”
If the first time you saw ‘Go Go’ was in a local paper or on this blog you are looking in the wrong place though. There are dozens of amazing community groups focused on the Gownaus Canal that would love to help you learn about and explore the canal and its brilliant cast of plant and animal characters. Take a canoe tour with the Dredgers
, plant a garden with the Canal Conservancy
or learn crazy tidbits of Gowanus history with Proteus Gowanus
. Who knows, you might ‘discover’ Gowanus’ next best secret…
Here’s another shot of Gowanus wildlife haning out in our first phytormediation project the ‘trash island’. It was winter so the plants aren’t doing so great, but the birds seemed happy and nested on the island for a few weeks before heading on. One day we’ll transfer all our Super 8 footage and you can see egrets, mallards, cormorants and more!