Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Great blue herons and red-winged blackbird, photo by Leor Veleanu
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Green arrow arum, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Beaver family, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Wild turkey hen, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Canada geese, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Northern highbush blueberry, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Common reed and duckweed, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Pearl crescent butterfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Osprey with fish, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Eastern mud turtle, 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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News from Unexpected Wildlife Refuge

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Canada geese at Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

17 June 2019: Our manager frequently spends time at Miller Pond, one of our waterways that is rich with wildlife all year round. On a recent crisp winter late afternoon, he and these Canada geese shared a sunset.

Photo by The Guardian

15 June 2019: A global survey has found that 571 plant species have become extinct although scientists say that the number is likely to be much higher.

The study (, is based on the first global analysis of plant species. It was reported that the number of plants to have disappeared from the wild is more than twice the number of extinct birds, mammals and amphibians combined.

The main cause of the extinctions is given as the human destruction of natural habitats, including the cutting down of forests and converting land into fields for farming.

"Plants underpin all life on Earth," said Dr Eimear Nic Lughadha, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who was part of the team. "They provide the oxygen we breathe and the food we eat, as well as making up the backbone of the world's ecosystems -- so plant extinction is bad news for all species."

Although our Refuge is 'small', every hectare of habit that is protected from human encroachment is critical if we are to prevent mass extinction of all the others with whom we share this planet.

Click here for article in The Guardian.

Watercolor of deer with fawn, artwork by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder

13 June 2019: Throwback to 1962 and this excellent watercolor print originally created by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder and wildlife artist. You can help the Refuge by purchasing a copy of the unmarked print by choosing Help us > Merchandise from the main menu. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Wild turkey, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

10 June 2019: This wild turkey hen was wandering around an area of forest when our manager happened along. She quickly fled the scene, but Michael managed to get a photo (and some video) before she disappeared. You can see the video here.

Beaver and poplar tree, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

6 June 2019: Throwback to a long time ago, when this beaver came out of the water to 'harvest' this young poplar tree. The photo was taken by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #beavers

Full moon over main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

3 June 2019: Our main pond one early evening last May. Note the full moon. If you had been there, you would have been treated to a cacophony of wonderful wildlife sounds.

Male wood duck, photo by Ed Abbott

30 May 2019: Throwback to 1990 and this photo of a male wood duck by Ed Abbott. Also known as Carolina ducks, these colorful birds seem to find the main pond irresistible. Although we do not see them frequently, it is always a treat when the adults or babies are spotted swimming or, with the babies, walking over lily pads. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #woodducks

Canada geese in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

27 May 2019: Although most of the Canada geese who either live at or visit the Refuge are seen in the main pond, we regularly see a few in Miller Pond. Our manager was out for a hike near sunset and saw these two with the lovely backdrop of the thick reed growth characteristic of this part of the Refuge.

Beaver family swimming in main pond, 15 May 2019

25 May 2019: Watch this wonderful footage recently taken of a family of beavers while they appeared to be enjoying themselves in the main pond at Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. We are delighted to provide a safe and natural environment for this endearing keystone species, who can live freely and naturally without fear of being harmed at the hands of humans. Please support the crucial role our Refuge plays in a country where the destruction of habitat and the persecution of wildlife such as beavers continues so relentlessly.

American black bears, original artwork by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder

23 May 2019: Our throwback image this week is from a sketch of a family of American black bears by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. As many of you know, Hope was a prolific sketcher of the natural world around her and we enjoy sharing her work with you. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Cranesbill, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

20 May 2019: This cranesbill (Geranium genus), is just one of the many flowering plants we have at the Refuge. We found this one in a dry spot near the main pond recently, with a single purple flower.

Safe white-tailed deer, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

19th: Urgent appeal to New Jersey residents about proposed deer bow hunt in River Vale

A final decision on whether to allow a proposed deer bow hunt to take place this year in River Vale, NJ, has been postponed until the end of May to allow residents to express their opinion on the issue. This postponement follows a recent council meeting at which around 60 residents attended to express their opposition. Calls for non-lethal means of deer control such as sterilization and relocation have been rejected by the local Council as not acceptable by the State Fish & Game Council. Instead, the proposal is to allow the hunting of deer with bows and arrows. Such a method is inhumane and cruel and likely to result in lengthy suffering to the animals.

Even if you do not live in River Vale, please contact the Mayor and Council as soon as possible, urging them to not allow the bow hunt, but to instead adopt non-lethal means to control the deer population. If you know of people in River Vale, please ask them to write. It is crucial that the Council is aware of the strength of local opinion on this issue.

Write to Mayor Jasionowski and Council Members:

For recent media coverage:

Spicebush swallowtail butterfly larva, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

16th: Throwback to 1966 and this lovely photo of a spicebush swallowtail butterfly caterpillar. The large 'eyes' are thought to provide protection from predators by simulating green snakes. The larvae can also secrete a foul-smelling substance as a deterrent. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Finger gall on wild black cherry leaves, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

13th: These small protrusions (finger galls) from the leaves of this wild black cherry tree at the Refuge were created by Eriophyes cerasicrumena mites. The latter are tiny (essentially microscopic) arachnids who feed off the sap. The chemicals they secrete cause the plant to produce the galls. Thanks to Jason Hafstad and mertensiavirginica who helped us identify the correct species.

11th: A recent poll commissioned by the Humane Society of the United States shows that New Jersey voters do not want our state to be a safe haven for acts of cruelty to wildlife. Please read and share:

Raccoon at Otter Dam, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

9th: Throwback to 1966 and this photo of a raccoon at Otter Dam. This was taken in the evening (notice the 'eyeshine', which is a reflection of light by the tapetum, a structure just behind the retina). #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Eastern box turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

6th: World leaders urged to take action as UN report declares one million animal and plant species are threatened with extinction

A powerful indictment of the devastating impact human beings are having on nature has been published in a major United Nations report. The report, compiled by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), involving 145 experts from 50 countries, looked at changes to the natural world over the past five decades. In that time, while the world's human population doubled, there has been a rapid decline in biodiversity and as many as one million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Key factors causing this collapse in biodiversity are land use (over 70% of agriculture relates to the production of meat), the hunting and exploitation of animals, climate change, pollution and invasive species.

The biggest cause of losses to wildlife is change to habitats. The report states that over half a million land species have insufficient habitat for long-term survival and are likely to go extinct, many within decades, unless their habitats are restored. Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of tropical forest were lost (mainly from cattle ranching in South America and palm oil plantations in Southeast Asia) and 85% of the world's wetlands have been lost since 1700.

World leaders are being urged to take action. Sir Robert Watson, IPBES Chair, stated: "The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global."

Dark-eyed junco, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

6th: This male dark-eyed junco was spotted in a tree last February, while we still had snow on the ground. Although the variety we have at the Refuge has slate and white plumage, the color pattern has a wide range depending on the region of the US.

Refuge table at ACUA Earth Day Festival, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

3rd: Unexpected Wildlife Refuge attended the Annual Earth Day Festival hosted by the Atlantic County Utilities Authority in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Earth Day is an annual event that promotes environmental protection. It is a day to celebrate and raises awareness about our Earth and all the wild animals and plants who inhabit it. Tabling at such events plays an important role in the Refuge's educational outreach work, educating the public about our wildlife protection and habitat preservation work. Our team reported a busy day with much interest in the work of the Refuge. Thank you to everyone who visited and supported us.

Please support our important work by making a donation or becoming a volunteer.

Phoebe family, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

2nd: Throwback to June of 1966 for this photo of an eastern phoebe, possibly the mother, and her nest of five youngsters. The parents had built their nest on one of the support beams in a shed near the cabin. They did not seem to mind people going in and out of the shed. We do not know who took this great photo (if someone does, let us know so we can give credit). #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

April 2019

Baby eastern painted turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

29th: This eastern painted turtle baby, a hatchling from the year before, was making his way across a portion of the lane leading to the main pond. Although there is little vehicular traffic here, we felt it was prudent to give him a helping hand to clear the road. As one should always do, we made sure to place him on the side of the lane he was facing...and watched him carry on into the undergrowth.

Beaver cutting tree, photo by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder

25th: Throwback to 1966 and this night-time photo of a beaver working to cut down this poplar tree for food and building materials. It was taken by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder. Although some people erroneously believe that beavers will destroy all trees in an area, the truth is that beavers are selective and never 'clear cut' like people do. When there are no more suitable sources of 'food and fiber', the beavers move on to new places where their activities enrich the local ecosystem. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #beavers

Pearl crescent butterfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

22nd: This lovely pearl crescent butterfly was seen a while ago gathering nectar from these flowers. The Refuge is home to many butterfly and moth species, often the most colorful residents.

Muskrat, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo

18th: Throwback to 2016 and this trail camera photo of a muskrat. These elusive rodents (but not rats...not that rats are bad) are present at the Refuge, but we rarely get to see them. Sometimes, all we see is a form in the water, someone who appears to be a small beaver. We were lucky to have a trail camera in just the right place to 'capture' this one as he was about to enter the water. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #muskrats

Eastern gray squirrel in snow, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

15th: This eastern gray squirrel was foraging for food a short while ago, in the snow. She was probably oblivious to just how cute she looked when she climbed this tree in anticipation of having to flee from us.

Fox slaughter, NJ;


You have an opportunity to help end barbaric wildlife killing contests in your state (others should sign, too, to show their support). Please read this petition, sign it and share widely:

Rowan University student volunteers, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

11th: Throwback to 2012, when students from Rowan University showed up to volunteer at the Refuge. They helped with trail maintenance, general cleanup of the trails and painting of the outhouse. We value and depend on volunteers, whether students or others, and hope you will contact us if interested in lending a hand or two ( #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

St Andrew's cross, photo by Sage Russell

8th: This plant is in the St John's wort family. When Sage Russell visited the Refuge some years ago, he managed to get this lovely photo and shared it with us recently. Notice the delicate flowers giving the plant its name.

Beavers, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

7th: Today is International Beaver Day; a day to celebrate and raise awareness of the plight of this iconic species.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder of the Refuge, was a tireless defender of beavers. She spent decades protecting these much-maligned individuals against those who condemned the species as a 'nuisance'. Due to Hope's and many others' efforts, the North American beaver is making a strong comeback, although sadly many continue to be killed. The critical role that this persecuted keystone species plays in maintaining the health of our ecosystem is increasingly being recognized. These original 'eco-engineers' dam rivers and streams, slow water flow, create ponds and help to reduce soil erosion and pollution. Along with other beaver defenders, we work with the public and local governments to peacefully resolve 'conflicts' throughout New Jersey, helping to ensure that beavers will continue to live and flourish. We are proud to continue Hope's legacy in providing a safe haven for beavers and to work hard to protect and promote these wonderful animals.

Please support our important work to help beavers: Donate now

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

4th: Throwback to 2000 and this photo of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder, and her beaver crossing sign. As many who follow the Refuge know, Hope was enthusiastic, to put it mildly, about beavers. And, this enthusiasm has been 'infectious' every time we watch these intelligent and resourceful rodents go about their lives in their natural habitat. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #beavers

Beaver in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

1st: While on patrol, Michael, our manager reached the river intersecting the Miller Pond and Unexpected Rd. After an hour overlooking the lush native grasses, sedges, cattail colonies and numerous waterfowl, he noticed a dark form in the waterway. Quietly and effortlessly moving through the river was an adult beaver. Seeing no reason for alarm, she went about her business of inspecting the area while Michael took photos, after which she swam slowly back into the reeds.

March 2019

Augie Sexauer educating children about wildlife, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

28th: Throwback to June of 2002 and this photo of Augie Sexauer providing a lesson about wildlife to a group of children. Augie was an ardent supporter of the Refuge and freely shared his knowledge with our younger visitors. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Black vulture near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

25th: This lone black vulture (Coragyps atratus) was seen in a tree near the main pond in February. Also known as American black vultures, the Refuge is home to many of these large birds. Although some people view them as 'ugly', we see them as beautiful, vital members of a thriving ecosystem.

White-tailed deer in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

23rd: We have two new entries in our 'Beavers in the News Media' page, articles by Ben Goldsmith and Brandon Hansen. Choose Wildlife > Beavers from the main menu and click on 'Beavers in the News' or click here for direct access.

Gray tree frog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

22nd: A delightful first-hand account of the history of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge by Dr Ned Buyukmihci, President and Secretary, has been published in SoJourn 3.2 Winter 2018/19. The article -- Unexpected Wildlife Refuge: Haven for South Jersey Wildlife -- is full of photographs and interesting anecdotes about this unique and fascinating protected habitat, home to endangered and threatened wildlife in South Jersey, like the gray tree frog pictured here.

Great crested flycatcher, photo by Ray Davis

21st: Throwback to 1989 and this photo of a placid-appearing great crested flycatcher (Myiarchus crinitus) taken by Ray Davis. Although insects are their primary source of nourishment -- usually caught in flight -- they also eat berries or other plant material. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #greatcrestedflycatchers

Red velvet ant, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

18th: Although taken some months ago, we thought this photo of a female red velvet ant (Dasymutilla occidentalis) would be nice to share as spring approaches. Bear in mind that these 'ants' are in reality a type of wasp. The female is wingless and looks like a large ant. Also known as cow ants, cow killers and eastern velvet ants, they can deliver a very painful sting so 'watch, do not touch' (not that you should try to touch wildlife).

Trustees Janet Romano and Dave Sauder at Lines on the Pines event

15th: Refuge attends annual Lines on the Pines event

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge had a busy time yesterday at the annual Lines on the Pines event (Sun 10th March 2019). There was lots of interest in the work of the Refuge. Thank you to everyone who visited and supported our educational stand.

Goldie, Fluffy and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, photo by Al Francesconi

14th: Throwback to 1965 and this photo of two young beavers (called Goldie and Fluffy by us) and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. This was taken by Al Francesconi at a time when we were allowing the 'befriending' of wildlife. We believe now that this can lead to tragedy for wildlife who may not know who is friend or foe with respect to people. Please bear that in mind when you interact with any wild animal. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #beavers

Volunteer Paula Dean, 2017 Annual Earth Day Cleanup, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

12th: Annual Earth Day Cleanup

Join us this year on Sunday, 7 April at 11:00 AM, for Unexpected Wildlife Refuge's annual Earth Day Cleanup! Armed with gloves and bags, we will meet at the Refuge and walk out to Piney Hollow Road to collect trash along a two-mile stretch that is adjacent Refuge trails. This is an important and long-time event for us -- the photo shows Paula Dean in 2017 -- not only to clean up our environment in general, but also to gather debris before it migrates into the Refuge. We pick up and cut plastic beverage ring holders, particularly hazardous for animals. Items that are recyclable are separated from others for proper disposal. Afterwards, we will meet back by the main pond for a potluck vegan lunch. To keep our expenses down, we ask that each volunteer bring one or more vegan items to share with everyone. Please, no beverages in plastic bottles. If we know ahead of time, we can provide a barbecue venue (a bag of charcoal would be appreciated).

To RSVP, E-mail us at or call us at 856.697.3541 before March 31.

Buttonbush, photo by Safe Russell

11th: This lovely photo of a buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), was provided to us by Sage Russell. Also known as button-willow, common buttonbush or honey-bells, the buttonbush is an 'attraction' to various insects, birds and deer. You can see more photos of these plants at the Refuge on our "Plants at the Refuge" page.

Mural of passenger pigeons, by Edmund J Sawyer

7th: Throwback to 2007 (we believe) and this photo of a mural in the Dennison, Ohio, Post Office. This was produced by Edmund J Sawyer, father of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. It is a beautiful rendition of now extinct passenger pigeons. When he was alive, Edmund related to us that he used to see the sky obscured by these wonderful, gentle birds during their migrations. Tragically, hunting and a view that they were 'plentiful' eliminated this species from the planet. This should be a poignant reminder to us all that all non-human species are threatened -- despite how many individuals there are and what 'officials' say about them -- and that there is no such thing as overpopulation. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #passengerpigeons

, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

4th: Three Canada geese (Branta canadensis) hauled out of the freezing main pond to spend some time on one of the little islands, grooming and relaxing. These geese are ubiquitous at this time of year and never fail to bring a smile to our faces.

February 2019

Ruffed grouse drumming, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

28th: Throwback to 1966 and this great photo of a ruffed grouse 'caught' during his drumming sequence. We are not sure who the photographer was, but it was likely Al Francesconi or Refuge co-founder Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #ruffedgrouse

Snow geese, Wikipedia

27th: New Jersey to allow snow goose hunting during February-April 2019

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife is to implement a "Spring light goose Conservation Order" that allows the hunting and killing of this migratory bird. 'Light goose' is the collective name applied to greater snow geese, lesser snow geese and Ross's geese. (See end of last paragraph for what you can do.)

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 established Federal protection that prohibited, unless allowed by regulations, to hunt, capture and kill migratory birds. However, since spring 2009, many Atlantic Flyway states, including New Jersey, have implemented a Conservation Order (CO) for light geese. A CO is a special 'management' action, authorized by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and is used to control a wildlife population when traditional management programs are deemed unsuccessful in preventing 'overpopulation' of a species. (See our wildlife Myths page for why the issues of 'management' and 'overpopulation' are ridiculous and extremely inhumane concepts.)

Other states to hold similar hunts this year are Delaware, Maryland, Vermont, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

The Conservation Order allows an extended time period outside of traditional hunting seasons as well as additional methods for hunting these birds without bag limits; including the use of electronic calls, unplugged shotguns, and extended hunting hours up to 1/2 hour after sunset.

Snow geese breed in Greenland, Arctic North America and Siberia -- some migrate south in the autumn to spend the winter on the Atlantic coast of the USA. Snow geese often spend their winters at Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. The arrival of a flock of noisy snow geese at the Refuge is a welcome sight. Snow geese usually live in very large flocks; pairs mate for life and create very close bonds with each other and their young. Families remain together through the youngs' first winter and can be identified as groups during both the southern and northern migrations. It is appalling to know that in New Jersey, and other states, members of these close families can be randomly blasted out of the sky. We do not know what can be done to prevent this, but you could contact the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife and voice your objection so that at least they know not everyone agrees with their 'management' decisions. Contact information is here:

Beaver in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

26th: Beavers are to become a protected species in Scotland

The Eurasian or European beaver (Castor fiber) is to be added to the list of European Protected Species of Animals in Scotland. From May 2019, it will become an offense to kill, injure or capture the animals. Beavers have been extinct in Scotland for around 400 years but, a few years ago, were reintroduced to Argyll and Tayside. Under the new protection, beavers will now be allowed to expand their range naturally.

The Scottish Environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: The Scottish Government believes in the highest standards of animal welfare -- for both wild and domestic animals -- and we felt it was high time that beavers enjoyed the same legal protection as other species like bats, dolphins, wildcats and otters.' She said: 'There are few species that have such significant and, largely positive, influence on the health and function of our ecosystems. The importance of beavers to Scotland's biodiversity is huge.

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is delighted that the vital role beavers play in the world's ecosystem continues to be recognized. Beavers benefit nature and are important 'ecosystem engineers'; their activities can create wetland habitats and enhance biodiversity.

There has been widespread support for the decision for beavers to become a protected species.

According to the Scottish Natural Heritage: The return of beavers to Scotland and their recognition as European Protected Species heralds one of the most significant changes to the natural environment in many years.

Barbara Smith, chief executive of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland said: The granting of European Protected Status is a vital step in welcoming beavers back to Scotland as a natural part of our ecosystem. This is a milestone for the many of us who have worked together for years on the return of this species.

Scottish Natural Heritage will provide free and expert advice to help people who are experiencing problems with beavers and where possible to provide humane measures to minimize damage. Sadly, for the beaver, this new protection will not prevent the granting of a license to use lethal means where there is considered to be no alternative.

For further information:

Trees 'logged' by beavers, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

25th: These gnawed stumps were located many meters from one of the ponds. They serve to illustrate the industriousness of beavers in seeking food and building well as the powerfulness of their jaws and teeth in gnawing through wood.

Main pond on a snowy day in November 2008, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

21st: Throwback to November of 2008 for this photo of a snowy day and the main pond. Notice one of the 'legacy' rustic bird houses intended for wood ducks. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Bald eagle on stump in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

18th: A telephoto image of one of the many bald eagles who live at or visit the Refuge. This individual was perched on an old tree stump in the main pond on a windy day.

Baby hog-nosed snake, photo by Al Francesconi

14th: Throwback to August of 1964, when Al Francesconi took this great photo of a baby eastern hog-nosed snake 'wandering' around the Refuge. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #hog-nosedsnakes

Black bear, Bill Lea

13th: Challenge to New Jersey bear hunt rejected by court

A challenge to New Jersey's bear hunt has been rejected by a state appeals court. The challenge, brought by the Animal Protection League of New Jersey, The League of Humane Voters of New Jersey as well as several individuals, was an attempt to stop the implementation of amendments introduced in 2015 that added a second annual hunt in October to the existing hunt in December, allowed bow hunting and increased the number of hunting permits.

Angi Metler, executive director of the Animal Protection League, told the New Jersey Herald: "Non-lethal black bear conflict management is key and the future, no matter what the courts say," she continued. "We're not giving up until that day arrives."

Bear hunting in New Jersey was reintroduced in 2003. In 2018, 140 bears were killed in October and 85 in December. Governor Phil Murphy made a promise to impose a moratorium on bear hunting when he took office, but has failed to deliver. To date, he has stopped bear hunting on public land only. Bears can still be tormented and killed on private land.

The annual slaughter of these majestic and sentient animals must end.

Please continue to call (609-292-6000) and tweet Governor Murphy urging him to end bear hunting on all lands in New Jersey (@GovMurphy promised to cancel the #bearhunt).

For further information:

Common snapping turtle in main pond, photo by Dave Sauder

11th: If you look closely at the encircled portion of this photograph by Dave Sauder, one of our Trustees, you will see a stout turtle head. Dave was visiting the Refuge in January and saw several common snapping turtles swimming in the main pond. His observations remind us that these turtles are 'cold-tolerant' and can be active all winter long.

Gray squirrel, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo

9th: Protest the squirrel killing contest in New Jersey

Winslow, New Jersey, is allowing a squirrel killing contest. Billed as the "First Annual Family Squirrel Classic", it is giving trophies and prizes to those, including children, who kill the most squirrels. This brutal and inhumane 'event' is scheduled for Saturday 16 February 2019.

PLEASE take time right now to voice your objection to this systematic slaughter of squirrels. Here is what you can do:

Drawing of beaver with lily pad cap, original artwork by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

7th: Throwback to early in the Refuge's history to this fanciful sketch of a beaver kit with a lily pad on her head. Original artwork by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Wild sarsaparilla, photo by Sage Russell

4th: Another nice photo of plants at the Refuge, provided by Sage Russell. This one is of wild sarsaparilla, circa 2012.

January 2019

Tufted titmouse, photo by Al Francesconi

31st: Throwback to 1967 and this exceptional photo of a tufted titmouse, taken by Al Francesconi. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #tuftedtitmouse

Great egret in flight, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

28th: A long-distance photo of a great egret flying near the outer border of the main pond during a fall day.

White-tailed deer eating water lily in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

26th: Please sign and share this petition to stop the killing of deer in Essex County Parks (South Mountain, Hilltop, and Eagle Rock Reservations), New Jersey and instead adopt humane methods to deal with wildlife-people conflict and population control. The petition has been started by the League of Humane Voters, New Jersey.

White-tailed deer are one of the most easily recognized wildlife species in New Jersey; many of whom live at Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Sadly, they are also one of the most persecuted species, cruelly hunted and killed with bow and arrows, shotguns and muzzle loading rifles.

Access the petition here:

Drawing of cuckoo by Edmund J Sawyer

24th: Throwback to many years ago to this delightful sketch of a cuckoo made by Edmund J Sawyer, artist, naturalist and father of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Safe white-tailed deer at Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo

22nd: Call for an end to the deer slaughter in Texas

Land's End, a residential community in East Texas, has started to trap wild deer in nets to be taken away and slaughtered. Deer are highly nervous animals and prone to stress and shock during capture. This is an inhumane way to address human-wildlife conflict. We urge the Land's End Homeowner's Association to stop this cruelty and instead to adopt humane methods.

Please write a polite message to the Board of the Land's End Homeowner's Association: (their Web site is:

They also have a Twitter and Facebook accounts:

Tall beaksedge, photo by Sage Russell

21st: We recently received a group of images from Sage Russell, of plants found at the Refuge. Although these are from several years ago, they are excellent photos of plants that live here, like the tall beaksedge pictured here.

Coyotes in Yellowstone National Park, National Park Service

18th: We and the coyotes who call our Refuge home urge you to sign this petition to stop extreme cruelty to coyotes in Wyoming

Wyoming allows 'yote whackin', a cruel and brutal practice that includes coyote killing contests and the chasing and killing of coyotes with snowmobiles. Coyotes are hunted all year in Wyoming. Considered a predatory animal in the State, no license is required to hunt them.

Please support the effort to protect coyotes in Wyoming. Sign the petition and write to the Governor of Wyoming ( Further details can be found here:

Drawing of dolphin by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder

17th: Throwback to a long time in the past to this drawing of a dolphin by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder. Hope made sketches of a wide variety of species, not just those residing at the Refuge. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Beaver lodge in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

14th: This beaver lodge is on the far side of the main pond. Our habitat continues to entice beavers to stay and raise families.

White-tailed deer in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

13th: Support protests against deer hunting in New Jersey

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for white-tailed deer, one of the most easily recognized wildlife species in New Jersey. Shockingly, however, deer can be hunted and killed in 500,000 acres of state-owned public open space in NJ. Hunters are permitted to use not only shotguns, but also archaic and particularly cruel bow and arrows and muzzleloading rifles. They are allowed to spend over 100 days slaughtering these shy, elegant and engaging mammals. During 2017-2018, a staggering 48,545 deer were killed in NJ. This slaughter continues into 2019.

During January 2019, protests against deer hunting in Essex County are taking place. If you are able to, please support these events, taking signs (with polite, but firm messaging) with you:

South Mountain Reservation
Date & time: Saturday 19th January (between 11:30am-1:30pm)
Location: 560 Northfield Ave, West Orange, NJ (on the grassy surface, curbside, adjacent to the entrance of Turtle Back Zoo).

Hilltop Reservation
Date & time: Saturday 26th January (between 11:30am-1:30pm)
Location: Corner of Fairview Ave and Bloomfield Ave in Verona, NJ (on the curbside of Bloomfield Avenue)

For further details, contact Animal Protection League of New Jersey:

Moss in bog area, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

10th: Throwback to 2015 and this photo of one of our rich bog areas. The pictured sphagnum moss sprinkled with fallen leaves of a variety of trees makes a lovely 'salad'. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory

Bumblebee and buttonbush, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

7th: From earlier and warmer days at the Refuge, a bumblebee was gathering food from this buttonbush.

Beaver with reed in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

4th: Reason to Celebrate! After 180 years, beavers have returned to Milwaukee River. Milwaukee historian, John Gurda, reports in the Journal Sentinel. Although Gurda has eaten beaver meat in the past, he remarks, "What better way to start the new year than by cheering the return of these ancient natives to their ancestral home?" Read more at

Canada goose on frozen main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

3rd: Throwback to 2009 and this lone Canada goose on the snow-covered and frozen main pond. Her or his friends were nearby. #tbt #ThrowbackThursday #UWRHistory #Canadagoose

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