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, December 2018

Here is our latest newsletter to keep you informed about just a few of the activities and issues concerning Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.

Aerial view of part of Refuge, photo by Cliff Compton
Aerial view of Refuge
Cliff Compton

Thank you to all who helped us in 2018
Thank you to everyone who has supported Unexpected Wildlife Refuge during 2018. It has been a challenging year for the Refuge and the generosity of our supporters is crucial to us being able to fulfill our mission to protect natural habitat and provide a haven for the indigenous wildlife of New Jersey, including the many endangered and threatened species who call the Refuge home. Raising awareness and educating the public to appreciate the importance of wildlife and habitat protection and working with individuals and communities to peacefully resolve conflicts with wildlife are also important parts of the work we do. One encouraging development during 2018 has been the comeback of the North American beaver. After decades of defending the beaver who, we are happy to report, continue to live and flourish here, we are delighted to have played a role in the comeback of this much maligned and exploited species.

We also welcomed many new visitors to the Refuge, people who had only just learned about us and wanted to see a largely unmodified and natural habitat for wildlife. Although they faced several challenges -- flooded trails and arachnids who saw them as an easy source of food -- they found exploring the Refuge to be a fascinating and rewarding experience. We encourage visitors; just give us a call (856.697.3541) or send an E-mail and we will add you to the schedule.

We know there are many worthwhile causes to support. We hope, however, that we can rely on your continued support during 2019. There are many ways in which you can choose to do so, and further information can be found near the end of this newsletter. You do not have to wait until next year: A donation today - no matter how small - will enable us to continue our important work tomorrow and help to secure the future of the Refuge and the safety of the wildlife who reside here.

We wish you and yours a peaceful New Year.

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

Special thanks to those who helped with patrolling (we still need volunteers)
A special thanks to Mary Ann Gurka, Jason Howell, Dave Sauder and Jonathon Alspach for volunteering to patrol the Refuge to keep it free of hunters. It has been a record setting season for rain, making patrolling cumbersome at times. Mary Ann and Dave, both who have been visiting the Refuge for some 30 years, noted that they had never seen it this flooded before (see photos below). So far this year, no hunters have tried to enter the Refuge. We are grateful on behalf of the deer, like the one in the photo, to be able to provide a safe place for them to go.

Sadly, we are not yet finished; hunting 'season' continues until the end of January 2019, so we are still in need of volunteers. If you can help, please call Michael (our manager) at 856.697.3541 or E-mail him at so that he can get you on the schedule.

Patrolling can bring unexpected rewards. Jason identified river otter scat during his patrol. Others later saw the otters themselves, breaking through the ice in frozen waterways. Dave saw a deer and tried to get a good photo to share. Thankfully, the deer was too elusive. We hope such behavior will mean she might survive this killing 'season'.

Trail impeded by fallen branches and mud, photo by Dave Sauder
Impeded trail
Dave Sauder
Trail impeded by flooding, photo by Dave Sauder
Impeded trail
Dave Sauder
Dave Sauder on patrol, photo by Dave Sauder
Dave Sauder on patrol
Dave Sauder

Beavers in the news

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder of the Refuge, was a tireless defender of beavers. She spent decades protecting these misunderstood individuals against those who condemned the species as a 'nuisance'. We are delighted that the vital role that beavers play in the world's ecosystem continues to be recognized as evidenced by a recent flurry of supportive reports.

Beaver with lily pad 'hat' in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver with 'hat'
Beaver eating water lily in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver eating water lily
Reintroduction of the Eurasian beaver into the United Kingdom
In recent years, the Eurasian beaver -- the 'cousin' of the North American beaver, native to Europe -- has been reintroduced into parts of the United Kingdom. The most recent introduction is part of a pioneering natural flood management scheme for East Anglia. Eurasian beavers were previously hunted to extinction for food, fur and scent glands, and were last seen in this region during the 17th century. It is hoped the beavers will improve biodiversity and help to reduce local flood risk. For more information, see news story and the UK government site.
The Eurasian beaver has been spotted in Italy for the first time in almost 500 years!
Eurasian beavers, once common across the continents of Europe and Asia, were hunted to near extinction. Although the species has been successfully reintroduced in other countries, it remained extinct in Italy from the 16th century to today. See file copy of news item for more information.
BBC World Service Discover Nature
Listen to this BBC World Service Discover Nature short radio clip extolling the importance of the beaver, calling the species an ecological engineer, and unsung steward of streams:
CBC Radio-Canada
This article points out cogent reasons why people need to learn to live with beavers in their midst. In addition to facts about this keystone species, there are two audio portions, one on the full episode, the other a clip by biologist Glynnis Hood explaining succinctly why beavers are important to the ecosystem:
Remember beavers this holiday season
While we take delight in knowing that the Refuge provides a haven to many beavers, it is with great sadness that we think of the many other beavers in New Jersey facing capture and death during the coming weeks when the trapping season starts on 26th December. It is heart-breaking that this iconic keystone species, whose important role in maintaining the health of our ecosystem is indisputable, continues to be cruelly trapped and killed in New Jersey.

Campaign updates for wildlife in New Jersey
Elephant in circus
Elephant in circus

Ending wild animal acts in traveling circuses
New Jersey is set to become the first state ever to ban elephants and other wild or exotic animals from traveling circuses and animal acts. In October, Nosey's Law passed the New Jersey Assembly and is expected to now be signed by Governor Murphy. Thank you to everyone who contacted their New Jersey Assembly members urging them to support this important bill. It would not hurt to remind Governor Murphy to do the right thing and sign the bill: call him at 609.292.6000; send mail to PO Box 001, Trenton, New Jersey 08625; or Tweet @GovMurphy

In the US and around the world, there is a growing opposition to the exploitation and abuse of wild animals, including elephants, tigers and bears, forced to perform in circuses and other traveling acts. Portugal recently joined many other countries across Europe working to end the suffering of wild animals by enacting a law to ban their use in circuses by the year 2024.

BEAR billboard
BEAR billboard

Bears are still being killed in New Jersey
This October and December, the cruel hunting of New Jersey's iconic black bear -- now in its eighth consecutive year -- took place. Governor Murphy campaigned on a promise to stop the bear hunt but, in the end, he only banned it on state-owned land. While any restriction on this brutal activity is welcome, the ongoing maiming and slaughter of these sentient and majestic animals with bows and arrows, rifles and shotguns, is shocking and unacceptable.

There must be a permanent ban to end this cruelty. Please continue to pressure Gov Murphy to honor his commitment to stop the bear hunt on all lands, even if you are not a New Jersey resident; call him at 609.292.6000; send mail to PO Box 001, Trenton, New Jersey 08625; or Tweet @GovMurphy

Inhumane traps, Animal Protection League of New Jersey
Inhumane traps

Campaign continues to ban cruel traps
Despite New Jersey having the strongest leghold trap legislation in the country, other types of inhumane traps, with spring-operated mechanisms, continue to be legal, including the notorious Conibear and the cruel 'enclosed foothold trap'. These traps still slam onto the animal's limb and result in trauma, pain, restricted blood flow, fractured and broken bones as well as self-biting or chewing including self-amputations.

If you are a New Jersey resident, please continue to urge your legislators to support Senate Bill S179 and Assembly Bill A3110. If you do not know who your legislators are or how to contact them, click here for the legislative contact Web page.

Governor Murphy has agreed that leghold traps are "horrible". He can invalidate the Fish and Game Council's regulation allowing their use with a simple executive order; ask him to do so, now: call him at 609.292.6000; send mail to PO Box 001, Trenton, New Jersey 08625.

Snapshots of life at the Refuge
Steeplebush, photo by Sage Russell
Sage Russell
Fowler's toad, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Fowler's toad

Updated lists of animals and plants seen at the Refuge
We have replaced our static page listing species of animals and plants at the Refuge with pages that are illustrated with photos of those seen on site. We hope these pages will make for interesting viewing and are available on our Web site under the Wildlife menu choice. Here are direct links to each: Animals at the Refuge, Plants at the Refuge.

These lists are far from complete and we are adding new information as it becomes available. The photos we used on these pages often comprise just a few of those we have on file for a particular species. Our Galleries pages provide a comprehensive list.

Gray catbird near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Gray catbird

Gray catbird near main pond
We heard rustling amongst the leaves in vegetation near the main pond. Standing quietly for some time, our patience was rewarded when this lovely gray catbird 'popped' out of the brush and hopped onto a fallen branch as if ready to have her or his picture taken. External markings are not sufficient to differentiate the genders in this monomorphic species.

Ring-necked duck couple on main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Ring-necked ducks
Male ring-necked duck on main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Male ring-necked duck

Ring-necked ducks
The Refuge is home to and a stopping point for numerous species of water birds. This male ring-necked duck (left) was swimming in the main pond. Unlike the gray catbird, ring-necked ducks are strongly dimorphic as can be seen in the pair of these ducks on the right.

American grass spider and web near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
American grass spider

American grass spider and web near main pond
Spiders are ubiquitous at the Refuge, as they are elsewhere. They are fascinating to observe, but often difficult to identify based on the human penchant for classifying everyone and everything. We sometimes wonder whether the animals in question might have their own ideas on what to be called. But, we digress. Here is just one of the many individuals we have had the pleasure of seeing at the Refuge. Thanks to Linda Buyukmihci-Bey who did some research and identified her (the spider) as an American grass spider.

Eastern painted turtles, main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern painted turtles

Eastern painted turtles, main pond
These two eastern painted turtles were basking in the sun on a log protruding from the main pond a few months ago. One of the thrills of quietly observing the animals living at the Refuge is to watch turtles like these slowly make their way up onto logs for sunbathing. Of course, if we try to get too close, the turtles quickly drop into the water and take off in different directions. If we are patient, we can see a head appear, often a relatively long distance from the original log, as the individual comes up for air.

Northern black racer near cabin, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Northern black racer

Northern black racer near cabin
This adult northern black racer snake was seen amongst the fallen leaves at the side of the lane leading up to the cabin. It is likely that she was searching for food, in preparation for the upcoming winter and hibernation; note her tongue testing the environment for odors. Although the genus-species for this snake is Coluber constrictor constrictor, this is somewhat of a misnomer. Despite having "constrictor" in their taxonomic name, these snakes do not wrap around their prey; rather, they throw coils of their body over the animal in order to subdue them. Of course, for the hapless animal, the end result is the same.

Crown-tipped coral fungus, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Crown-tipped coral fungus

Crown-tipped coral fungus along a trail
These clusters of crown-tipped coral fungus were seen along one of the trails near the main pond. They grow on wood, as can be seen in this photograph showing the portion of a fallen log being used as a substrate.

A glimpse at our past
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder, Philadelphia Inquirer photo
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci on boardwalk in 1971
Our co-founder spent most of her waking moments out amongst the wildlife at the Refuge. Although she did not have any formal education about wildlife, her knowledge was formidable and based on repeated direct observation of various species. She often learned that some of the information 'out there' in books and other literature was at odds with what she saw. In 1971, she was interviewed for an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer and was photographed on one of the many boardwalks that provided access into this beautiful habitat.

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 more than 40 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. 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, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Bald eagle
Beaver and lily pad, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
River otter, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
River otter
Eastern box turtle, photo by Chris Tlapa
Eastern box turtle
Red fox, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Red fox

Gray squirrel gathering nesting material, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Gray squirrel

Support us using Humble Bundle
Humble Bundle is a distribution platform selling games, ebooks, software, and other digital content. When you purchase from their site using our partner page, the Refuge gets a percentage of the purchase price. If you are planning on purchasing electronic media of this type, check out Humble Bundle to see if you can get what you want and help the Refuge at the same time.

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

Red wolf, Wikipedia

Protection of Red Wolves in North Carolina: The red wolf is one of the world's most endangered wolves. The species used to be common throughout the Eastern and South-Central United States, but populations were decimated by the early 20th century and have now dwindled to a wild population of around 35, found only in one peninsula in eastern North Carolina. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to allow landowners to legally kill those wolves once they leave the confines of a small protected area known as Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge. Sign this petition to urge USFWS to abandon their proposal:

Captive bear on motor scooter, Animals Asia

Vietnam's Shame: Ban Barbaric Animal Circuses Now: Animals Asia investigated the use of captive wild animals as 'entertainment' in Vietnam. As is always the case in these situations, the animals were being forced to 'perform' using violence as a means of 'inducement'. In addition, many were of greatly endangered species. Please sign this petition to help Animals Asia end this appalling cruelty in Vietnam:

Murdered giraffe, Care2

We Must Ban Trophy Hunting in South Africa: No, that giraffe in this photo is not peacefully posing; he was slaughtered by the woman gleefully holding her weapon. This kind of senseless killing, particularly to get a 'trophy', is vile and must not be allowed to continue. If money is an issue for the South African government, it would make far more sense to only allow photography safaris so that the animals will be there in perpetuity. Please sign this petition to urge the government of South Africa to put an end to this immoral practice:

Headquarters cabin, photo by Dave Sauder
Headquarters cabin
Dave Sauder

Update on our headquarters cabin
We had hoped to have some positive news concerning our plans to replace our headquarters cabin with a modest, environmentally-friendly new building. After spending over $2,000 on an application and a survey required by the Pinelands Commission, we were told that the cabin could be demolished as the first step. But, contrary to what we were told before, the Commission then raised several other issues and the prospect of our having to spend even more money with no assurance that we would be allowed to install a new building. We cannot afford to demolish the cabin and then learn that we are prohibited from building a new headquarters. We are allowed to make repairs to the cabin -- our initial plan -- without further interference from the Commission. As a result, we have decided to return to the original plan. We have a modest grant that will help us through some of the repairs. We will, however, be counting on your generosity to finalize the project.

Our newsletters are the result of a team effort involving people dedicated to protecting wildlife in general and furthering the Refuge in particular:

  • Nedim C. Buyukmihci, story contributor and editor
  • Sarah Kite, story contributor and copy-editor
  • Michael Puleo, story and photo contributor
  • Dave Sauder, story and photo contributor

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