Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Ladybug on Headquarters stairs, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Lichen and fungi on log, photo by Dave Sauder
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Bald eagle calling in tree next to main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Barred owl in 1990, photo by Bernie Hehl
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Bearded iris near Miller House, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Beavers on Refuge in 1984, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Belted kingfisher in tree on main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Bird tracks in snow, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Black vulture on cabin barn, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Wood ducks near Wild Goose Blind, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is a protected natural habitat comprising 767 acres of pristine pine lands, forest, fields, bogs, streams and lakes. 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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Luxury of Living Fur

by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

Women have long admired the beauty of fur. The sheen of rich fur is at its best, however, when rippling over the life within, adorned with sparkling and trustful eyes. My favorite fur is beaver. And one lovely lady wearing a fur coat has made this so.

Whiskers and her husband Greenbrier live close to me. Poplar branches brought Whiskers to have confidence in me, and then her mate learned to trust me also. Both parent beavers left their youngsters in my care at the lodge. Each spring we renewed our acquaintance, and the kits, born in early May, shared their parents' freedom from fear.

The family got to dropping in for poplar in late afternoon – at the cove in front of our cabin – and were on hand for a bedtime snack at sunrise. Whiskers taught me something about child care, international relationships and individual freedom.

At first our contacts were limited to her coming warily for poplar, and towing boughs swiftly out of sight. Later she remained to eat in the open. Still later she came right up to me and murmured a greeting, and listened to my reply. The old song is true – you don't have to know the language.

Whiskers' confidence emerged as a personality trait, for her husband remained aloof. But time, and possibly the example of his mate and children, finally reassured him. Now he comes with the rest, and when I meet him unexpectedly along the stream, I have only to speak to him and he accepts my presence. He is usually working, which can't be said for his wife and children. I have seldom seen Whiskers work on the lodge, though she often places a stick on the dam as she crosses over.

However, as a mother she has a different task. Greenbrier may bring in bedding for the newborn, but it is Whiskers' teeth which shred it into soft fibers. How much labor is involved in beaver housekeeping? I have never been in her house. I probably never will be, though I may invite her into mine. Sometime she may want to come.

It is with the youngsters that Whiskers has helped me most (I am the mother of three). She showed me that the devotion of motherhood need not extinguish independence. There can be gaiety at play time, and the traditional picture of a mother holding a baby in her arms. There is watchful care, and providing of food. But Whiskers retains her dignity, stands up for her rights as an individual, and maintains discipline while teaching good beaver manners.

Young beavers love to plague their parents, like human offspring, finding out how far they can go. A hiss from Whiskers constitutes a scolding, and a lunge through the water ending with a brisk nudge corresponds to a corrective slap. There is no strident shouting among beavers, but many shades of meaning in their low tones.

Whiskers and I don't talk much, but I value her friendship. It is a luxury without price.