Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
1/ 10
Moss on Boundary Trail, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
2/ 10
Moonlit main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
3/ 10
Elegant spreadwing damselfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
4/ 10
Racoon on trail camera near Wild Goose Blind, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
5/ 10
Northern water snake in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
6/ 10
House wren near Headquarters, photo by Leor Veleanu
7/ 10
Luna moth male on porch at Headquarters, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
8/ 10
Bleeding heart flowering near Headquarters, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
9/ 10
Northern cricket frog in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
10/ 10
Fungi on fallen tree on Boundary Trail, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge 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.
Read more

Beaver Tales from Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, April 2019

Main pond in spring, photo by Leor Veleanu
Main pond
Leor Veleanu

Spring has arrived at the Refuge and, after having experienced one of the wettest winter seasons we can recall in over 30 years, it is wonderful to see 'life emerging': buds on the trees (photo), turtles coming out of dormancy and much more. The results from all the rain have been spectacular, although not without their challenges as areas that normally would be dry or simply swampy have become flooded. Subsequently, our walkways used to cross moderately wet areas are not only under water, but some have also been largely destroyed by water movement and downed trees. We expect to be busy for some time dealing with this while, at the same time, appreciating that changes in weather and habitat formations bring with them new opportunities for wildlife. We do not want to unnecessarily interfere with what may be the new natural order of things.

Your financial support is crucial for us to continue to look after the Refuge and protect the animals and plants living here. If you have not done so this year, please send us a donation -- any amount will be gratefully received!

Urgent: Your help needed to stop wildlife killing contests in New Jersey
Janine Motta and Dave Sauder protesting squirrel killing contest
Janine Motta & Trustee Dave Sauder
Eastern gray squirrel safe at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Eastern gray squirrel

There have been at least two squirrel killing contests in NJ this year (New Gretna and Winslow). The Refuge has protested these barbaric events (see photo) that teach children to view wildlife as mere 'things' to be killed wantonly, their dead bodies considered 'prizes'. Two recently introduced bills, S3541 (Nilsa Cruz-Perez) and its companion in the Assembly, A5224 (Daniel R Benson, Eric Houghtaling, Carol A Murphy), are intended to stop killing contests in New Jersey.

What you can do if you are a New Jersey resident:

  1. Write your state legislators and politely urge them to co-sponsor S3541 and A5224 and support them when they come up for a vote.
  2. Sign and share widely this petition: End ALL New Jersey Wildlife Killing Contests

If you do not live in New Jersey, please write the legislators in your state and urge them to introduce legislation to ban killing contests. You can also sign the above petition to show your support.

And, regardless where you live, there are petitions that you can act on to help stop these barbaric contests elsewhere.

News items
Leor Veleanu and canine friend
Leor & friend

Refuge appoints new Trustee to Council
Leor Veleanu has been appointed as a fifth Trustee on our Council, all volunteers who oversee the mission of the Refuge. Leor is an attorney dedicated to protecting the rights of all species, including human and non-human animals. He is passionate about photographing wildlife, especially birds, and has been a vegan for over two decades.

Janet Romano & Dave Sauder, Trustees, at Lines on the Pines, 2019
Trustees, 2019 Lines on the Pines

Refuge attends annual Lines on the Pines event
Trustees Dave Sauder and Janet Romano reported a busy day at the annual Lines on the Pines event that took place in March, with lots of interest in the work of the Refuge. Through our presence and our educational outreach at such events, we can raise awareness about the plight of wildlife and the environment. Thanks to those who visited and supported our educational stand.

Barred owl, photo by Bernie Hehl
Barred owl
Bernie Hehl

Refuge history subject of an article in SoJourn
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 our unique and fascinating protected habitat, home to endangered and threatened wildlife in South Jersey, like the barred owl pictured here.

Beavers, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beavers at UWR

Humane methods best for resolving conflicts with beavers
The Refuge always promotes humane methods to resolve conflicts with wildlife that do not resort to killing. A new study has shown that non-lethal methods of dealing with conflicts are not only humane and allow for beavers and people to peacefully co-exist, they can also be more effective and less costly than lethal ones. The results of the long-term analysis of the management practices in the Billerica, Massachusetts area, entitled Billerica Municipal Beaver Management Program: 2000 - 2019 Analysis, has been published by Michael Callahan and colleagues at Beaver Institute. We have included this on our Literature on Beavers page on our Web site. People who are facing challenges concerning human-beaver conflicts should refer to this report, as well as our Web site, for ideas on how to deal with this issue humanely.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci and beavers, photo by Al Francesconi; although compelling, please do not befriend wildlife
Beavers & HSB
Al Francesconi

Beavers in the news

Here are some recent news media articles concerning beavers. You can see our entire and growing list, a tribute to this wonderful keystone species, in our Beavers in the News page. If you come across a news item on beavers, please send us the link so that we can consider it for inclusion.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder of the Refuge, was a tireless defender of beavers and her influence is reflected in our continuing efforts to protect these wonderful rodents, the largest in North America. We are delighted the vital role that beavers play in the world's ecosystem continues to be recognized as evidenced by the reports below (also linked in our news page).

Beaver, The Spectator
The Spectator
The triumphant return of the British beaver
Ben Goldsmith presents the history of beavers in the United Kingdom, how they were eradicated through hunting, and their successful reintroduction. As for the impact on existing wetlands, he points out, "These wetlands soon abound with life."

Beaver, WDFW photo
WDFW photo
CREATURE FEATURE: Beavers, the engineers of nature
Brandon Hansen summarizes the history of beavers in North America and points out the overwhelming benefits of these large rodents. According to Hansen, "The beaver is Canada's national animal and our neighbors to the north made that designation in 1975."

Beaver, Press Association
Press Association
Beavers to become protected species under new legislation
Recognizing the ecological importance of beavers, Scotland has made the beaver (European 'cousin' of the North American beaver) a protected species despite opposition from some. Unfortunately, if an individual becomes a 'problem', people can apply for a license to kill her or him.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
White-tailed deer, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
White-tailed deer
trail camera

Stop deer and coyote killing in Saddle River
Since September 2018, over 100 deer have been killed by bows and arrows within Saddle River, NJ. The Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ) have joined local residents in speaking out against this appalling slaughter. Coyotes are also being killed. Please contact Mayor Albert J. Kurpis at and the Council at Saddle River Borough Hall, 100 E. Allendale Road, Saddle River, NJ 07458 or call Borough Hall at 201.327.2609, politely urging Saddle River to end the deer and coyote hunt and implement safe, effective and humane methods to control the deer and coyote populations.

You can also sign a petition to stop this killing:

American black bear cubs, Jos Bakker
American black bear cubs
Jos Bakker

NJ Department of Environmental Protection in bid to stop bear protesters
To try to prevent people protesting against bear hunting, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is proposing a rule change (N.J.A.C. 7:1D-3.2 (a) 4,) that would prevent the disclosure of government records that allow people to identify, track or locate bears. Until now, that information could be obtained by anyone through a request made under the state's Open Public Records Act (OPRA).

Please contact your state legislators to request legislative oversight and hearings to overturn this proposed rule that is inconsistent with the legislative intent of the OPRA law. If you do not know who your legislators are or how to contact them, click here for the legislative contact Web page.

American black bear cubs, iStock photo
American black bear cubs

Keep saying NO to bear hunting in New Jersey
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy promised us he would put an end to bear hunting, but has not fulfilled this assurance. Please continue to contact Governor Murphy and urge him to prohibit bear hunting on all land in NJ, not just public land:

Telephone: 609.292.6000
Tweet: @GovMurphy #savenjbears

Snapshots of life at the Refuge
American robins, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
American robins

Manager comments on the impact of changing season
Spring, a magical period at the Refuge, is upon us. Michael, our manager had the following to say about his first such experience at the Refuge: "Spring seems to have sprung here at the Refuge. The night-time sounds have transitioned swiftly from being an intensely calming silence to having a vastly more lively and energetic tone. The ground, too, is beginning to liven up, with the sprouting of some of the first annual plants, eager to get a fresh taste of sunlight."

Muskrat, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Muskrat (trail camera, 2016)
Muskrat lodge in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Muskrat lodge

Another muskrat lodge...and sighting
Miller Pond, one of our lush wetlands areas, seems to be a favorite place for muskrats. We rarely get to see these illusive creatures (see trail camera photo from 2016), but we know they are there from the extensive lodges they build (pictured). Michael was lucky enough to get an early-morning glimpse of one as the muskrat swam up to and quickly disappeared into this lodge, possibly to spend the rest of the day until dusk. A much-persecuted large rodent, muskrats -- who are not rats at all -- are important in the natural 'management' of plant growth in wetlands.

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

A beaver and Refuge manager share a moment
While on patrol, Michael reached the river intersecting 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 North American 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.

Black vulture, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Black vulture
Black vulture, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Black vulture

Close encounter of the avian type
We do not often get a close look at black vultures, also known as American black vultures. Michael was fortunate to have a camera available when this relatively young individual swooped down from the sky and sat on a branch nearby to bask in the sunlight. Although some people view them as 'ugly', we see them as beautiful, vital members of a thriving ecosystem.

Beavers and Canada geese in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge video
Beavers & geese video

Beavers and Canada geese in main pond
Two beavers were recently observed swimming in the main pond. You can see them pass each other with Canada geese (and other waterfowl in the background).

Baby eastern painted turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern painted turtle

Baby eastern painted turtle road crossing
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.

Tufted titmouse, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Tufted titmouse

Tufted titmouse studies our manager
On a cold winter day (notice ice on branch), this tufted titmouse stared at Michael while having her photo taken. We say 'her', but unless you have a female and male together, it may be difficult to discern that the forehead patch is larger in the more dominant male. Because this species is generally non-migratory, we assume this individual is spending her life at the Refuge and, we hope, will have a family soon, maybe in an abandoned woodpecker nest.

Wild daffodils flowering, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Wild daffodils flowering
Wild daffodils sprouting, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Wild daffodils sprouting

Wild daffodils also herald the onset of spring
As the ambient temperature rises at the Refuge, another sign of spring is the sprouting and flowering of daffodils. Because we find these plants in areas away from cultivated land along the borders, we believe they are truly wild daffodils, although we cannot guarantee that seeds from distant cultivated plants did not find their way to these remote spots. Nevertheless, these colorful perennials are well-established as part of the Refuge flora.

American bur-reed, photo by Sage Russell
American bur-reed
Sage Russell

American bur-reed at the Refuge
One of the perennial plants at the Refuge is the American bur-reed. Because it can remove nitrogen and phosphorus from water, along with complementary effects by beavers, it improves the quality of water for all. Sage Russell visited the Refuge some years ago and shared this photo with us.

A glimpse at our past
Mural on passenger pigeons, by Edmund J Sawyer, Dennison, Ohio
Passenger pigeon mural
Edmund J Sawyer

Passenger pigeons mural
This mural in the Dennison, Ohio, Post Office, was created by Edmund J Sawyer, father of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci. It is a beautiful, if poignant, 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 chilling reminder 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 in nature.

Beavers in Bickford video, 25 Jun 1994
Beavers, 25 Jun 1994
Peter Bickford

Beavers at the Refuge in June 1994
This footage of beavers eating at the Refuge was extracted from a video generously provided by Mickey and Peter Bickford who are long-time supporters of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. The video was taken on 25 June 1994. The beavers were part of a resident family, shown in one of the many ponds seen throughout the Refuge. You can also find a link to this and other Refuge video and audio recordings in our new page on our Web site (Galleries > Refuge video and audio recordings).

The full version of the video includes footage of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci (our co-founder), Mickey and friends Bill and Terry.

Take action to help wildlife at the Refuge

As part of the vital and globally unique ecosystem that is the Pine Barrens, the Refuge is home to many endangered and threatened species. Please make a pledge to sponsor a Refuge habitat or choose to support one of the species of animals who call this protected land 'home'. You can easily do this through an automatic monthly PayPal donation (you do not need a PayPal account, just a credit card). Go to our Donate page to make your choice and subscribe. Your recurrent donations will be used, as with all our income, to continue protecting the Refuge from harm and allowing the inhabitants to live freely.

Here are the choices you will have:

  • Wetland habitat: $30.00
  • Pine forest habitat: $25.00
  • Bald eagle: $20.00
  • Beaver kit: $15.00
  • River otter: $15.00
  • Eastern box turtle: $15.00
  • Red fox: $10.00
  • Your personal favorite: $20.00
  • All habitats and animals: $60.00
Muddy Bog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Muddy Bog
Bald eagle on stump in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Bald eagle
Beaver and lily pad, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
North American river otter, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
River otter
Eastern box turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern box turtle
Red fox, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Red fox

Deer, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Deer by HSB

Your unwanted vehicle, another way to help the Refuge
Do not forget that your used or unwanted vehicle can provide funds to us through the CARS vehicle donation program. CARS will accept any vehicle, running or non-running, and offer free towing throughout the United States. Once they have processed and sold the vehicle, they will donate a majority of the proceeds directly to the Refuge.

Call toll-free 855-500-RIDE (855.500.7433) or visit the Refuge CARS page at to participate. Not only does this provide an easy way to be rid of an unwanted vehicle, you will also be helping wildlife at the same time.

Beavers, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Beavers by HSB

Helping wildlife and the Refuge in the future
We remind you to please remember Unexpected Wildlife Refuge when planning your will and estate. It is an easy, effective and lasting way to help the Refuge... and wildlife. When talking with your estate planner, just provide them with our name, address and tax identification number (23-7025010). This is one of the most important gifts the Refuge can receive. If you have already included us in your future plans, thank you!

Take action to help wildlife everywhere

Here are just some of the current issues where wildlife, whether living freely or imprisoned in circuses, zoos or other venues, can benefit from your help. We urge you to take action and share with others.

Coyote, photo by OldFulica

Ban wildlife killing contests on all U.S federal land: In January, the New Mexico Land Commissioner, Stephanie Garcia Richard, signed an order making it illegal to organize, sponsor, or participate in a killing contest of innocent and unprotected animals, such as coyotes, for so-called entertainment or prizes on state land. The petition we highlight here expands on this humanitarian order by calling for wildlife killing contests to be banned on federal land across the entire US:

Please sign and share:

Striped skunk at Unexpected Wildlife Refuge
Striped skunk (UWR)

Stop cruel hunting contests in Canada: Please sign and share this petition to the Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resources calling for an end to all wildlife killing contests in Canada. Earning points and winning cash prizes for killing animals, including wolves, coyotes, bobcats and skunks, is inhumane and cruel:


Bobcat, Care2

End the cruel treatment of Bobcats in Colorado: Please sign and share this Citizen's Petition that is asking the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commissioners to ban the trapping and hunting of bobcats throughout Colorado:


Contact us

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge
Mailing address: P.O. Box 765, Newfield, New Jersey 08344-0765
Web site:
Telephone: 856.697.3541