Bats! FAQs

A small colony of Egyptian fruit bats will be onsite in PEM’s Dotty Brown Art & Nature Center during the 11-month exhibition run. These bats were born in captivity. Egyptian fruit bats have light brown bodies, dark brown wings, a long muzzle and up to a two-foot wingspan.

True to their name, these nocturnal mammals feed almost exclusively on soft fruits, such as dates, apples and apricots. They are expert navigators, even at night. Like bees, they are important pollinators for local trees and plants in the wild and are hugely beneficial to their native ecosystems. In fact, Egyptian Fruit Bats are one of the main ways the trees in the forests of Sub-Saharan Africa, Northern Africa and the Middle East disperse their seeds.

These bats have never lived in the wild. Before the exhibition opened, a veterinarian examined them. They have their own health certificates, permits and licenses for public display. We are delighted to share this colony of happy, healthy bats with you!

Per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:
“There is no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to people. There have been a few reports of infected mammalian animals spreading the virus to people during close contact, but this is rare. These cases include farmed mink in Europe and the United States, white-tailed deer in Canada, pet hamsters in Hong Kong and a cat in Thailand. In most of these cases, the animals were known to be first infected by a person who had COVID-19.

It’s important to remember that people are much more likely to get COVID-19 from other people than from animals. There is no need to euthanize or otherwise harm animals infected with SARS-CoV-2.

There is a possibility that the virus could infect animals, mutate, and a new strain could spread back to people and then among people (called spillback). More studies and surveillance are needed to track variants and mutations and to understand how SARS-CoV-2 spreads between people and animals”.

Learn more from the United States National Park Service

These bats are under Indiana Wildlife’s United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) permit (the Massachusetts Fish & Wildlife Permit has been submitted and will be issued by a Massachusetts State Veterinarian when the health certificate is completed by the bats’ veterinarian in Minnesota, shortly before they come to Salem at the end of August). While in our care, Art & Nature Center staff and volunteers will be trained by the exhibition provider, Build 4 Impact, on how to oversee daily care of the bats.

During the run of the exhibition, veterinarian Dr. Alex Becket, who oversaw the care of two different colonies of fruit bats at Zoo New England, will be on call.

PEM’s standard gallery conditions are well suited to the needs of Egyptian fruit bats. PEM will have the animal enclosure dimly lit to suit their environmental needs. 

Visitors will be able to observe the bats from outside their clear enclosure.  Visitors will also be able to look up inside the enclosure by putting their head up into a plastic dome, which will offer a unique perspective on the bats.

Egyptian fruit bats are nocturnal (active at night), like most bat species. During the museum’s standard open hours (10 am–5 pm), the bats will spend most of their time roosting, sleeping and grooming.

The bats will be engaged by the different sounds, smells and sights from visitors going through the gallery and "popping up" inside the viewing bubble during the day. Some of the bats are more interactive and curious than the others and will respond accordingly, though the bats will mostly be resting during regular museum hours.

Staff will provide enrichment in many other ways, including puzzle feeders, plush toy animals and a variety of items to climb on/hang on/fly around. The bats will also get to explore diverse food offerings (different fruits, food cut into different shapes, peeled vs. whole fruit, etc.) and interact during the daily cleaning and care they receive and with other changes to their environment.

The bats in this colony are all males.

The bats will be  transported back to their colony at Build 4 Impact in Minnesota for a 6-month- to year-long break, while another colony goes to the next museum exhibition.

The state is home to nine native bat species, including the little brown bat, Indiana bat and tricolored bat. Five out of nine native species are endangered. Learn more about the bats in your backyard.

Upcoming Exhibition \\ On view September 9, 2023 to July 28, 2024