Friday, 24 July 2009

Annals of the Sixth Extinction: The Bats are Back in Côte-des-Neiges

The news from Lukas is good.

Tuesday night he spotted bats flying around the balcony the way they’ve done for the last few years. Presumably they're catching insects in the mature maple whose branches reach up to the third floor where he and Sophie live, but where the animals nest is a mystery. There are no caves or empty structures readily apparent nearby where the bats might roost, although they certainly have been a fixture in Sophie and Lukas’s very urban neighborhood.

Bats are falling prey to a fungus disease, according to Elizabeth Kolbert in an alarming story in The New Yorker, and I had been wondering how the ones in Montreal were doing. Kolbert's article, entitled “The Sixth Extinction,” outlines the way in which humans have devastated the lives of other animals we share the planet with. She mentions the big mammals that we seem to have killed off wherever and whenever our populations expanded into new territory, but she goes on to tell of several diseases which we are spreading inadvertently right now. Amphibians and bees are being decimated by fungus —and now bats in the North East of the US are being attacked by white nose disease, which is also a fungus.

It would appear that the plague hasn’t crossed the border, though. A survey of abandoned mines by Quebec wildlife biologists turned up no cases last year, and now we have the report from the front—or at least the corner of Edouard-Montpetit and Westbury.

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