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, August 2019

View from headquarters, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
View from office

By now, most of you will be aware that we are moving forward with our plans to replace our dilapidated headquarters building (our 'cabin') with a new building that will be more efficient and hospitable for our onsite manager. Our headquarters is located at the major access point for the Refuge and close to the main pond. Not only is it crucial to the administration and protection of the Refuge, it provides living space for the onsite manager, the person indispensable in maintaining and protecting the Refuge. As you can see from the photo, the view from the office is compelling. Once the new building is ready for occupation, the Miller House, a short distance away, will become an expanded education and volunteer center.

Since sending out the appeal for funds for the new building, we have received many generous donations. Thank you to everyone who has donated so far. Through their generosity, we have reduced the projected need for the project from $175,000 to $165,000. We hope that those of you who have not yet made a contribution will do so to help us reduce this even further!

We -- and the wildlife -- are grateful for your continued support.

News items
School volunteers relaxing at Miller Pond, photo courtesy Courtney Nicholson
Students at Miller Pond
Courtney Nicholson
Trash removed by school volunteers, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Some of trash collected
Delsea Regional Middle School volunteers, photo courtesy Courtney Nicholson
School volunteers
Courtney Nicholson

Students and teachers from Delsea Regional Middle School help Refuge with trash cleanup
We were excited when Courtney Nicholson, a teacher at Delsea Regional Middle School in Franklinville (NJ), reached out to us about students volunteering at the Refuge. She stated that there were over 60 students who would like to do something for the community. It just so happened that we were in the process of deciding on how to deal with all the trash some members of the public had dumped in the area surrounding "Joe's garage", a part of the Refuge easily accessible, but relatively remote. After explaining the situation to Courtney and pointing out that this would be a lot of work involving a great variety of trash, she readily agreed that this was something for which the students would volunteer. So, on a Thursday last month, two busloads of students and teachers arrived at Joe's garage and spent hours searching for and removing several tons of trash (see photo for examples). After they were done, we took them to Miller Pond for a much-deserved rest and relaxation period observing wildlife. We are grateful to these students and teachers and their commitment to the community in general and to the Refuge in particular. We look forward to continued student volunteering in the future.

Beaver among yellow water lilies and pickerelweed in Miller Pond; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver, lilies and pickerelweed

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.

Beaver, Troy Harrison/Getty
Troy Harrison/Getty
Beavers engineer their ecosystems in a way that helps moose and otters
Sam Wong reports on how beavers benefit wildlife in general while going about the business of being beavers. (You would need to subscribe to NewScientist to read the entire article.)

Beaver dam, Getty Images/Manuel Romaris
Beaver dam
Getty Images/Manuel Romaris
How Beavers, the Original Ecosystem Engineers, May Help the American West Adapt to Climate Change
This article by James Gaines discusses how relocating beavers into their natural habitat can have beneficial effects on not only the region, but also on the environment in general.

Beaver in Hudson River, West Sider
West Sider
Beaver Frolics in the Hudson Outside Former Trump Buildings
This beaver was seen swimming in the Hudson River outside New York City. Not sure what he is going to use for materials if he is anticipating building a lodge. Thanks to Lorraine Gagliardotto Garry for sharing this report with us.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
Deer shot through face with arrow,
Deer shot through face with arrow

Continued appeal to New Jersey residents about proposed deer bow hunt in River Vale
According to local news media, River Vale Council decided in May to begin preparations for a possible deer bow hunt in the fall. However, the current status of this hunt appears to be undecided and public opposition in River Vale continues to be voiced at Township Council meetings. Most recently, on 22nd July, speakers opposing the bow hunt, including Angi Metler, executive director of the Animal Protection League of NJ, urged the Council members to adopt non-lethal methods for deer management. The president of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge also provided a written statement to the Council to use non-lethal alternatives. Even if you do not live in River Vale, it is important to continue to send polite E-mail messages to the Mayor and Council 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.

Please also sign and share this petition:

Write polite messages to Mayor Jasionowski and Council Members; they seem to be genuinely concerned about the deer being killed:

APLNJ alert

Still need New Jersey residents to call Governor Murphy about the deer killing bill

Even if you have already done so, please call Governor Murphy at 609-292-6000 and ask him to VETO deer killing bill S2419/A3242.

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is supporting Animal Protection League of NJ with this campaign. S2419/A3242 was passed by the Senate and is now on the Governor's desk waiting for his signature. This Bill expands the cruel and unethical methods typically used by hunters. It expands killing and wounding methods for deer and other wildlife including: killing animals directly over bait at point blank range; killing deer any time of day or night; shooting deer from moving vehicles, and jacklighting (stunning deer with strong lights).

It also includes the "Multi-Species Depredation" Permit - permits issued by the Division of Fish and Wildlife that "authorize agents of the owner or lessee, to kill any animal of a species listed in the permit which is on the land and known to cause crop damage". This could apply to a variety of species.

American black bear cubs, iStock photo
American black bear cubs

Keep saying NO to bear hunting in New Jersey
We need to keep up the pressure on this issue. 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 politely 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
Female wild turkey, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Wild turkey

Wild turkey fails to evade being captured...on camera
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. Although wild turkeys can fly short distances, they mostly run quickly into brush in order to hide from intruders. If you are fortunate, you may get to see them glide from a higher to a lower elevation, something that can be very spectacular (and 'noisy').

Baltimore oriole nest, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Baltimore oriole nest
Baltimore oriole, photo by Leor Veleanu
Baltimore oriole
Leor Veleanu

Baltimore oriole near headquarters
On one of his trips to the Refuge, Trustee Leor Veleanu spotted and got a great photo of this adult male Baltimore oriole in a tree near our old headquarters building. Although not particularly 'colorful' compared with some of the other birds at the Refuge, the bright orange feathers are striking and eye-catching. These birds have a tough time raising young given the large number of predators who prey on their eggs and young despite a nest that is relatively secure (photo is of one near the cabin a couple years ago).

Chipping sparrow, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Chipping sparrow

Chipping sparrow in the grass
Although reportedly common, we have only been able to get one photograph of a chipping sparrow at the Refuge. These sparrows are migratory, spending their winters in Mexico or the southern states of the US.

Common garter snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common garter snake
Common garter snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common garter snake
Common garter snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common garter snake

Common garter snake ventures out
This common garter snake (the eastern subspecies) hid underneath this ramp when approached. After several minutes, he peaked out to see if the coast was clear, checking all around him. Although these snakes can grow up to four feet long, the ones we see at the Refuge are usually less than two feet. The saliva of this species is purported to be toxic to the small animals upon whom they prey. People, however, are not at risk whatsoever. One of the Trustees used to regularly handle these snakes when he was younger (and let them go) and has been bitten many times. He stated, "Although slightly irritating, their bites are of no consequence. The odor of the fluid they expel as a defense is far worse an 'affront' to one's sensibilities."

Beaver, lilies and pickerelweed in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver, lilies & pickerelweed
Beaver, lilies and pickerelweed in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver, lilies & pickerelweed
Beaver, lilies and pickerelweed in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver, lilies & pickerelweed

Beaver surrounded by 'food' in Miller Pond
This beaver is literally surrounded by what she would consider food. The purple flowering plant is pickerelweed. Its seeds and rootstocks are a favorite food source not only for beavers, but also for muskrats and waterfowl. Beavers also make almost complete use of the yellow water lily: flowers, leaves and rhizomes. We have several beaver families and this beaver is almost certainly one of those who has their lodge a short distance from Miller Pond.

Great egret, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Great egret

Great egret 'strolls' through lily pads
We often see great egrets in or around the main pond. This individual was 'strolling' through the lily pads near an island, almost certainly looking for someone to eat. Large egret and great white heron are some of the other names by which people refer to these birds. We were surprised to learn that they are relatives of pelicans from a taxonomic perspective.

Spider, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Spider on web strand
This spider seems to be floating in midair, until you look closely and see the single strand of web on which she is climbing. We see many species of spiders at the Refuge. Many build their webs spanning the trails and we unwittingly destroy these during our travels. We have, on occasion, remembered where a particular web was and, upon returning the next day, checked to see if the spider had built another. Sure enough, there was a new web, one which we now would walk under or around in order to not cause further disturbance.

Groundhog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Groundhog, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Groundhogs 'invade' headquarters
Michael has been watching a family of groundhogs, also known as woodchucks among many other names, who have taken up residence near the cabin. He has spotted at least three babies ('chucklings') who leave the burrow to browse, always with a parent guardian, like the one pictured here, close by. The closeup photo of one of the adults shows the large teeth typical of these rodents. Excellent burrowers, the dens created by groundhogs later become the homes of other mammals such as foxes or rabbits.

Beaver-gnawed tree stumps, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver-gnawed tree stumps
Beaver-gnawed log, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver-gnawed log

Welcome evidence of beaver appetite
We are very fortunate here in that we have many families of beavers spread out over the various bodies of water throughout the Refuge. Seeing them swimming, eating, playing or just grooming themselves is endlessly gratifying and enjoyable. We also get great pleasure out of seeing the indirect evidence of their activities aimed at procuring building materials or food, such as this tree that was downed by them. You can see that one or more beavers have snacked on the tree while it was still fresh. The other photo shows several tree stumps in the same area, all the result of beavers 'harvesting' the trees some time ago.

Northern highbush blueberry, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Northern highbush blueberry

Trail clearing reveals ripe blueberries
While clearing a trail near Bluebird Field, Michael, who has a passion for plants of all types, related this story. "I was removing some fallen logs and branches across a path that happened to be lying near a mature wild blueberry bush. As I pulled out the final branches tangled among the plants, my eyes suddenly focused on a touch of blue. There, in the 'chaos', had been hidden a thick cluster of fully ripened blueberries, the first ones I had seen all season. Blueberries are a native plant to the region and grow wild throughout New Jersey providing nourishment for many species of wildlife." Michael did not have a camera with him then, but later provided a photo of a cluster of unripe blueberries along the main pond dike (photo).

Red raspberry slime, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Red raspberry slime
Scrambled egg slime, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Scrambled egg slime

Slime molds championed
Michael points out that "slime molds, of which there are over 900 identified species, are the most understudied group of terrestrial organisms. The term 'slime mold' refers to a group of unrelated eukaryotic organisms that can live freely as single cells, but can mass together to form multicellular reproductive structures." Pictured are two of the striking examples we see at the Refuge. The scrambled egg slime is also known as dog vomit slime mold or flowers of tan.

Cranesbill, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Bleeding heart, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Bleeding heart
Wisteria, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common blue violet, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common blue violet

A potpourri of plant life at the Refuge
Our diverse habitat provides for a great variety of plants. They range from those that live on the ground, thrive in swamps or in open water to those that make other plants their home. We have added substantially to our growing list of photographs, including those of newly identified plants as well for those already in our records, but for which we did not have images. The photos here represent just a few examples of the diversity of species. You can see the full list of the hundreds of species seen at the Refuge in our Plants at the Refuge page on our Web site.

Common dodder, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common dodder
Hairy bittercress, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hairy bittercress
Virginia meadow-beauty, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Virginia meadow-beauty
Rare clubmoss, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Rare clubmoss

A glimpse at our past
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci in 1965, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hope Sawyer
Buyukmihci (1965)

Dave Sauder remembers our co-founder
Dave, one of the Refuge Trustees, has been a long-time supporter of the Refuge, financially and by doing the hard work that needs to be done. When asked about some of his earlier memories about Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, who founded the Refuge with her husband, Cavit Buyukmihci, he said: "Prior to her death in 2001 at the age of 88, Hope's eyesight was diminishing due to cataracts and a degree of macular degeneration. It became difficult for her to navigate the trails at dusk because she could no longer make out the boundaries. Because of her dedication to patrolling and desire not to limit her exploration of her beloved Refuge to daylight hours, she devised a plan of attaching pieces of white bed sheets to trees along the trails to guide her back home to the cabin when she was out past sundown. These pieces of cloth withstood the elements and could be seen on trees for years after her death, reminding me of her dedication and determination."

Female northern water snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Northern water snake

Trustee and son of co-founders reminisces about growing up at the Refuge
"I was fortunate to spend part of my childhood living at the Refuge," says Nedim Buyukmihci, son of Hope and Cavit, co-founders. Ned has always had a strong affinity for snakes and the Refuge provided him with many opportunities to study these fascinating reptiles. He recalls an encounter with two northern water snakes: "I came across a male on the main pond dike. He was over three feet long. I had found a recently dead small bass and wondered what would happen if I placed the fish near the snake. Within seconds, he (the snake) showed an interest and approached the fish. Just as he was about to grab the fish, a large female water snake, similar to the one pictured here, came up and quickly started eating the fish." Although Ned greatly enjoyed all his encounters with snakes, he is quick to point out that interfering with wildlife in this way is not necessarily in their best interests.

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 your choices:

  • Wetland habitat: $30.00
  • Pine forest habitat: $25.00
  • Bald eagle: $20.00
  • Beaver kit: $15.00
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
  • River otter: $15.00
  • Eastern box turtle: $15.00
  • Red fox: $10.00
  • Your personal favorite: $20.00
  • All habitats and animals: $60.00
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

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

Simple ways to help the Refuge
Do you have a birthday coming up? Instead of buying presents for you, you could ask your friends to make a donation to the Refuge. Or, what about that stuff in your garage you have been meaning to get rid of through a yard sale? Why not pledge to give the proceeds to the Refuge, letting the public know that their purchase price will go to help wildlife and the environment.

Hummingbird, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Hummingbird 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.

Rabbit, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Rabbit 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 a few 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.

Lions, Rainforest Rescue
Rainforest Rescue

Ban trophy hunting -- save the lions of Africa: Please call on the presidents of South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe to protect lions by banning all forms of hunting, establishing protected areas and strictly enforcing the security of existing wildlife reserves. The population of this iconic and majestic species is at risk due to human activity, primarily through the destruction of their natural habitat, but the cruel and barbaric practice of trophy hunting is also having a negative impact.

Please sign and share this petition:


Stop the Trophy Hunt of Bears and Wolves in Alaska: As we reported before, killing animals for 'sport' is morally repugnant. Hunters often claim that they are killing wildlife 'for their own good'. As illogical as such arguments are, hunting in quest of trophies puts paid to the lie of such claims.

If you have not already done so, please sign and share this petition to urge our government to put an end to this barbaric practice:

Contact us

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