Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Beaver, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Chicken of the woods fungus, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Canada geese and mallard ducks, main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Buttercup oil beetle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Hatched turtle eggs at Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Juvenile hog-nosed snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Gray catbird near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Red velvet ant, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Eastern box turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Painted and red-bellied turtles, main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is a protected natural habitat comprising 767 acres of pristine pine lands, forest, fields and bogs. It provides a refuge to animals and plants indigenous to southern New Jersey; a place where wildlife can live freely and naturally without fear of being harmed at the hands of human beings. We began as the home of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci and Cavit Buyukmihci, who dedicated their land to habitat preservation so that native wildlife and habitat could thrive. We are a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) entity, federal ID 23-7025010.
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Eagle Scouts at Unexpected

Eagle Scout is the highest advancement rank in Scouting, whereby a Boy Scout must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service and outdoor skills. Only about 5% of all Boy Scouts earn this rank. The Refuge is proud to have had the following Boy Scouts achieve this level of success by implementing their projects here. The narrative below briefly describes the projects completed by individual Scouts, often with the help of their Scout colleagues. We thank all for the help they provided the Refuge.

It should be noted that many of the projects were done before new policies came into effect concerning how we interact with the Refuge habitat and wildlife. For example, mowing or removal of plants (other than to clear access trails) is no longer permitted. The use of artificial housing for wildlife also is no longer permitted. These policies are intended to reduce interference with the fauna and flora and to allow the habitat to evolve naturally without introducing human bias or preferences.


Jake Bornyasz – Troop 252, White Horse District, NJ: Fall 2018

Jake Bornyasz and his 'crew'
Jake (far right) and 'crew'

Jake followed in his brother's footsteps in providing a service to the Refuge. He and his friends spent a day clearing a long section of trail. They also removed signs from trees in compliance with our current policy of not attaching anything to trees. They then installed the signs on metal posts they drove into the ground for this purpose.



Zach Bornyasz and friends
Zach and friends

Zachary Bornyasz – Troop 8, Cherry Hill, NJ: Fall 2015

Zach spent a day with a group of more than ten volunteers clearing Joe's Trail, which is dedicated to the late Joseph N. Trujillo. Joe was a hike leader, Refuge supporter and president of the Outdoor Club of South Jersey. Zach and his friends cut back brush, moved downed trees off the trail, removed rubble, repainted faded blazes on the trail-side trees, repaired wooden trail signs and replaced absent signs. Zach also raised and donated $200 to be used by the Refuge for further maintenance.



Sam MacLeon – Troop 8, Cherry Hill, NJ: Spring 2009

Following in his brother Ted's footsteps, Sam recovered Cedarbridge Trail, one of Hope's favorite walks. Sam and his friends cleared the forgotten trail and installed nest boxes intended for prothonotary warblers along the small watercourse that flows alongside the footpath. They constructed benches out of logs, reconstructed the "bridge" and marked the trail with green blazes.



Ted MacLeon – Troop 8, Cherry Hill, NJ: Summer 2007

Ted took the trail color key from Chris Keane's trail map project and applied it to the trails. Using spray paint and cardboard templates, Ted blazed the trees along each trail with a specific color paint so hikers could choose a trail and follow it easily throughout the Refuge.



Andy Eklund – Troop 65, Haddonfield, NJ: Fall 2006

Andy cleared a portion of land across from the parking area. He put down wood chips and constructed two cedar picnic tables with attached benches. After placing and leveling the benches, he cleared vegetation to open a vista across the main pond, creating a picturesque location for picnicking.



Bob Burton – Troop 54, Lindenwold, NJ: Fall 2006

Bob created and installed wooden directional and location signs throughout the Refuge. Using 5-1/4 inch decking, he and his friends cut, sanded, stenciled, painted and hung hundreds of signs along the trails and at important features, like Otter Dam and Wild Goose Blind.



Evan Wojtkowiak – Troop 65, Haddonfield, NJ: Summer 2006

Evan restored and enhanced bluebird habitat by cutting back encroaching plants. Evan also removed fallen trees that were impeding the extant mowing program. He left several standing dead trees, which are an important part of the ecosystem. Using benches, he created seating areas and installed an information sign about the eastern bluebird.



Kyle Gehring – Troop 65, Haddonfield, NJ: Spring 2005

Kyle constructed an observation blind on the south shore of the main pond, a good location for morning bird watching. He also redesigned and enhanced two existing blinds, with flat black paint inside and out, latching doors and blackout flaps on all viewing windows. These blinds allowed visitors to observe or photograph wildlife from dry, secure and comfortable locations.



Chris Keane – Troop 65, Haddonfield, NJ: Spring 2005

Chris designed and constructed a large, free-standing trail map of the Refuge. After building the sign using boards recycled from redwood furniture, Chris cut grooves representing property lines, roads, streams and trails. He then used different colors for each feature and created a legend and map key. He installed the sign across from the parking area so that visitors could quickly orient themselves to Refuge surroundings.



Brandon Galezniak – Troop 54, Lindenwold, NJ

Brandon's leadership project was the restoration and enhancement of Mockingbird Field. He and his crew removed plants and pruned trees for easier mowing, using the resulting brush to close off an unused trail. They made and installed two benches and an information sign about mockingbirds to enhance visitors' enjoyment of this lovely, peaceful space.



Jared Novak working on bench
Jared and bench

Jared Novak – Troop 65, Haddonfield, NJ

Jared constructed a beaver viewing platform next to the main pond. He creatively overcame unexpected challenges to reach his goal, an easily accessible and comfortable 'patio' with two benches. This new feature allowed visitors a convenient place from which to watch any beavers who might show up.



Adam Breskin and friends
Adam and friends

Adam Breskin – Troop 8, Cherry Hill, NJ

Adam tackled the entrance enhancement project, stating that first impressions were everything. He and his crew removed plants in order to clear the strip of land along a major access point to the Refuge. The entrance sign was repositioned to a more visible location.