Friday, June 5, 2009

A dose of muskrat.

It didn't take long for the man-made pond at Garden City Park to sprout shoreline cattail (Typha) thickets. These drew in Red-winged Blackbirds and a variety of waterfowl, and, no doubt invertebrates a-plenty. Last summer, schools of Brown Bullhead offspring swam and hid among the clumps. An amorous Pied-billed Grebe called from within.

But now look. The cattails exist only as dead stalks, and the shores are clear, mostly devoid of macroscopic life. What happened?

Muskrat, Ondatra zibethica.

I'm pretty sure that muskrats had a lot to do with it. They showed up in the pond sometime last summer, and did what herbivores do. They ate. And ate and ate and ate. Their favourite food? Cattail rhizomes.

They ate themselves out of house and home. I last saw a muskrat in the pond in mid-April.

They left quite a mess behind.

My guess is cattails will become reestablished within a year or so, will flourish for a while, until another muskrat pair finds its way to the pond via the storm-drain system, which feeds the pond.

In a small, almost closed system, this sort of back and forth will continue to go back and forth.

Oh, and Friday Ark.


islandgardener said...

We have lots of muskrats where I live in Virginia. It's so foul -- around here, the locals have these muskrat dinners in the fall. They are supposedly very, well, musky tasting, to the point where you have to mask the taste with lots of sage. Ugh!

Hugh said...

Ugh indeed. I wouldn't have thought there was a lot to eat on one of those.

Kim and Victoria said...

Yuck, eating muskrats. Don't see the point. Interesting post, Hugh.