Monday, May 26, 2014

Goodbye bats, goodbye belfry

The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) is nearing extinction in New Brunswick.  Scientists report that a 2014 survey of ten caves in the province counted a total of 22 bats in locations where colonies of thousands used to spend the winter in hibernation.  The cause of rapid decline in the N.B. bat population over the last three years is a fungus known as white nose syndrome, a disease imported to North America from Europe. The illness affects the skin of the bat and causes the dehydrated animal to emerge from the cave prematurely, exhausting vital energy reserves.  In spite of research efforts (Environment Canada spent $330,000 on the problem) scientists have not found a way to prevent the spread of the disease, or to cure it.

Little brown bat

Regions affected by white nose syndrome

The demise of the little brown bat may seem like a small loss, but that single missing species will actually have a big impact on agriculture in North America.  Bats normally feed on moths, flies and beetles and serve as a natural control for insect pests. As growers resort to more intensive insecticide use to protect their crops, food prices will rise.

Sackville United Church was dedicated in  October, 1875

In Sackville N.B. there may be a handful of bats still around, but sadly, no belfry for them to occupy.  The United Church building, a striking historic landmark that has dominated Main Street  for 135 years is destined for demolition.  A dwindling congregation, lack of regular maintenance and the need for money prompted the sale of the church property to a real estate developer in 2013.  Last year the manse was replaced with a drab housing complex that looks more like a warehouse than a residential building.  The church is currently for sale, listed on MLS for an asking price of $1 Cdn, with the condition that the building be removed from the land.  A buyer in Texas representing a church organization  has come forward with an offer to purchase and move the building south of the border.   It won't be long before the white spire on Main Street comes tumbling down, making way for yet another big box multi-unit apartment building.  For details of the doomed church, see photos at The Huffington Post.

"We are time's subjects, and time bids be gone."      
- William Shakespeare, "Henry IV" part 2

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