Beavers at the Refuge, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Moss on Boundary Trail, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Moonlit main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Elegant spreadwing damselfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Racoon on trail camera near Wild Goose Blind, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Northern water snake in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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House wren near Headquarters, photo by Leor Veleanu
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Luna moth male on porch at Headquarters, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Bleeding heart flowering near Headquarters, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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Northern cricket frog in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
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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.
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Beaver Tales from Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, February 2019

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

As people continue to pollute and destroy the environment, threatening the very survival of themselves as well as all the others living on this planet, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge's role in protecting habitat becomes increasingly important. Although we currently only comprise 767 acres -- minuscule in the scheme of things -- every acre that is protected means more opportunities for wildlife -- animals and plants -- to survive and thrive. In addition to 'common' species, our Refuge provides a safe home to those officially listed as endangered or threatened in New Jersey, including the bald eagle, timber rattlesnake and gray tree frog (all endangered) and the American kestrel and red-headed woodpecker (all threatened).

Importantly, by our presence and through our educational outreach, we sensitize the public about the plight of wildlife and the environment. Your continued financial support is crucial for us to continue. If you have not done so this year, please send us a donation -- any amount will be gratefully received!

News items
Dave Sauder, Trustee, at Lines on the Pines, 2018
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge & Dave

Unexpected educational events
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge will have educational tables at two large events this spring. Look for us at Lines on the Pines, 10 March 2019, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Stockton University. This event is an annual gathering of artists, authors and others who care about and live in or around the Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Admission and parking are free.

We will also be at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) Annual Earth Day Festival on 28th April from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. The event is located at the ACUA Environmental Park in Atlantic County.

We rely on and are always grateful for volunteers to help at such events. If you would like to volunteer, even for an hour, please contact the Refuge at or 856.697.3541. Even if you cannot help directly, just stop by and say hello. Tabling at events helps us to educate others about our important wildlife protection and habitat preservation work.

Chopper and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, photo by Bee Simpson; although compelling, please do not befriend wildlife
Chopper & HSB
Bee Simpson

Beavers in the news

In honor of beavers and the critical role they play as a keystone species, we have added a page to our Web site containing links to news media items about them. It is available by choosing Wildlife > Beavers from the main menu and then clicking on the "Beavers in the News" link. Or you can reach it directly by clicking here. If you come across a news item on beavers, please send us the link so that we can consider it for inclusion in this new list.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder of the Refuge, was a tireless defender of beavers and her influence is reflected in our continuing penchant for 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 new page).

Beaver lodge, Kent McFarland
Beaver lodge
Kent McFarland
Outdoor Radio: Wintertime with North American beavers
This is an article on beavers by Chris Albertine. In it is a link to the January 2019 episode of Outdoor Radio. You can listen to Kent McFarland, Sara Zahendra and conservation biologist Steve Faccio as they explore a beaver pond in Pomfret, Vermont. Even if you think you know a lot about beavers, you might be surprised by some of the facts.

Beaver-gnawed tree, John Gurda
Beaver-gnawed tree
John Gurda
After 180 years, beavers return 'home' to Milwaukee River in heart of downtown
John Gurda describes the return of beavers to the Milwaukee River, a place where beavers used to thrive. Gurda provides general information on beavers as well as the historical aspects of how their exploitation led to their extinction in the area.

Beavers, Getty Images/iStockphoto
Getty Images/iStockphoto
'We have caught (them) in the act': Beavers are invading Alaska, the final frontier
Joe O'Connor reports on the presence of beavers in Alaska. The beavers may be simply re-colonizing areas from which they had been extirpated in the past.

Off-road vehicle trespass, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Off-road vehicles

Off-road vehicle invasion stopped by Refuge manager
Once again, people have tried to use the Refuge as a venue for 'off-roading'. Luckily, Michael, our alert manager, heard the noise and was able to find the two men and their vehicles on Refuge land after running barefoot, and with a broken toe, through the woods. Despite having passed signs clearly designating the land as a wildlife refuge, the two men claimed they were 'lost', having been 'driving around for hours'. Michael calmly explained not only that their activities were illegal, but also tried to educate them by pointing out that these vehicles are responsible for damage to delicate habitat, plants and animals. After showing them the 'way out', Michael then surreptitiously followed the men for over a mile until he was sure they were off Refuge land and no longer, even if temporarily, a threat to wildlife.

The main issue with off-road vehicles is that they cause immense damage to habitat, changes that take months or years to 'repair'. The photo shows the kind of tire tread that is so destructive. Included in this damage is the outright killing of animals, particularly slow-moving ones such as toads and turtles, and destruction of various plant species. Although we are grateful that our Refuge was spared this time, what is needed are regulations to prohibit these vehicles in any natural habitat. The prevention of harm to habitat and wildlife should be more compelling than any claim people might raise concerning a right to enjoyment by this activity. You can help by working with local, regional or state government to encourage them to develop rules or laws to protect wild lands regardless of venue.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
Gray squirrel gathering nesting material, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Gray squirrel

Shocking squirrel killing contest to be held 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 systematic slaughter of squirrels for fun is scheduled for Saturday 16 February 2019.

PLEASE take time right now to call and write the Mayor and other Winslow elected officials and politely voice your objection to this planned atrocity. Even if you cannot do this until after the event or the officials tell you they can do nothing, at least the administration will know of the public opposition.

Once you have done the above, please also contact your own state Senator and Assembly members and urge them to ban wildlife killing contests like these throughout the state. If you do not know who your legislators are or how to contact them, click here for the legislative contact Web page.

A protest is scheduled to be held:
When: Saturday 16 February 2019 from 6:30 - 8:00 AM EST
Where: Inskip Antler Hunting Club, 729 Piney Hollow Road
For more information:

Nosey at Tennessee sanctuary,
Nosey at Tennessee sanctuary

Nosey's Law has been signed into law
We are delighted to report that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has signed legislation making it illegal to use wild and exotic animals in traveling circuses and other acts. Known as Nosey's Law, named after a 36-year-old African elephant used in traveling circuses across the country, the bill passed the New Jersey Assembly in October. New Jersey is the first state to pass this kind of legislation.

Governor Murphy said: "I am proud to sign 'Nosey's Law' and ensure that New Jersey will not allow wild and exotic animals to be exploited and cruelly treated within our state. This law would not have been possible without the years of hard work and advocacy by Senator Ray Lesniak, whose legacy on issues of animal rights is second to none. These animals belong in their natural habitats or in wildlife sanctuaries, not in performances where their safety and the safety of others is at risk."

Thank you to everyone who contacted their New Jersey Assembly members and Governor Murphy urging support for this important bill. Our hope is that other states will soon follow with similar humane legislation. If you live outside New Jersey, you can urge your state legislators to initiate such legislation.

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

Hunting of white-tailed deer
White-tailed deer, one of the most easily recognized wildlife species in New Jersey, are also one of the most persecuted. Although Unexpected Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for many of these inquisitive and sensitive animals, deer in other parts of the state are cruelly hunted and killed with bow and arrows, shotguns and muzzle loading rifles. One such location is Essex County, misguidedly as a means of controlling deer populations. Please sign and share this petition urging Essex County Parks (South Mountain, Hilltop, and Eagle Rock Reservations) to use humane non-lethal means to deal with this issue:

Snapshots of life at the Refuge
Common snapping turtle in main pond, photo by Dave Sauder
Common snapping turtle

Snapping turtles spotted in main pond in January
While visiting the Refuge to help with deer patrolling late in January, Trustee Dave Sauder was gratified with the animal wildlife who were visible on a cold, but sunny day. He was delighted to finally see a beaver swimming in the main pond. Although this is a common occurrence, Dave had never been there at just the right moment in the past. He also saw several winged insects in flight despite the cold.

More surprising, however, was Dave's sighting of several snapping turtles swimming in the main pond. Although turtles living in cold climes hibernate by burrowing into the mud beneath a body of water, snapping turtles can remain active all winter. They are considered to be 'cold-tolerant' and have been seen swimming below the ice in lakes or ponds with frozen surfaces. Incidentally, although you should normally never try to pick up wild animals (for your own and their safety), you need to be particularly mindful of snapping turtles. It is a common misconception that picking up these turtles by their tail is okay. Their tail -- as with many other species -- is an extension of the spinal cord and handling them this way can cause serious injury to the cord. Bear this in mind if you need to move these turtles out of harm's way, such as when they are found crossing roads (a major source of fatality for them). Pick them up using both hands, one on either side of the carapace as far back as possible to avoid being bitten, and be sure to place them heading in the same direction in which they were originally headed.

River otter den along main dike, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
River otter den
River otter scat on dike along main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
River otter scat
River otter (circled) breaking through ice in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
River otter

Otters at the Refuge
The Refuge has been home to North American river otter families for as long as we can remember. We do not always see them, but find evidence of their presence through their characteristic scat and dens (see images). Recently, our manager had been regularly scouting an area where he had noted such potential signs of otter residents. Aware of their wary tendencies, he knew one of his best chances at observing them was to listen for the sounds they make while breaking through thin ice. One brisk early morning, while walking near the main pond, he heard a cracking sound through the delicate ice that had formed days prior. Alert to the possibility of an aquatic mammal breaking through the ice, he aimed at the sound with his camera and was able to get a photo in the moment before this otter submerged again.

Canada geese swimming amongst ice in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Canada geese
Canada geese on island in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Canada geese

Birds of a feather and others flock together
On a recent, beautiful winter day, our manager Michael sat on the shore of the main pond and was treated to a rich avian and chelonian (turtles) display. Three Canada geese were resting and grooming on one of the islands at the other end of the pond. After about 20 minutes, the trio moved into the partially ice-covered water and came closer to Michael's location. An hour later, the scene had swelled to include 36 geese, seven mallard ducks and three snapping turtles. "All you need is a bit of patience, and the wildlife will make their presence known," observed Michael. Just another exciting day at the Refuge.

Female red velvet ant, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Female red velvet ant

Colorful red velvet ant
This female red velvet ant was seen scurrying through fallen pine needles and 'flowers'. Although known as ants, this insect is a type of wasp. The females are wingless and look like large ants, whereas the males have wings and can fly. Because the female can give a painful sting, they are also called 'cow killers'. The only animals in real danger, however, are the ground-dwelling wasps who become food for the red velvet ant's larvae.

Reindeer lichen along trail near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Reindeer lichen
Reindeer lichen along trail near main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Reindeer lichen

Reindeer lichen
One of the trails near the main pond was the site of a rich growth of reindeer lichen. It is a challenge to navigate these areas without causing harm to the plants, which are slow to regrow. Because they look like a form of moss, the plants may also misleadingly be called deer moss or reindeer moss.

St Andrew's cross, photo by Sage Russell
St Andrew's cross
Sage Russell

St Andrew's cross
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.

A glimpse at our past

Our co-founder's educational presentations
In addition to being an accomplished artist and naturalist, Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci used her experiences to teach others the wonders of our natural world. Soon after she co-founded the Refuge with her husband, Cavit Buyukmihci, Hope decided that she needed to put her hours of studying nature to good use. With her easel, huge pad of paper and colorful chalk, she would give presentations to any who would listen: school groups, civic gatherings, even other wildlife enthusiasts like at an Atlantic Audubon Society meeting shown in the photos below (circa 1974). Kevin Inman was in the audience, took the photos and was kind enough to share them with us recently.

Hope usually would illustrate her talks with sketches done on the spot. Her skill as an artist and first-hand knowledge of the animals she discussed provided a unique educational experience. These sessions were not easy for her as she was not particularly fond of speaking in front of people. She overcame her shyness because she knew that her message, particularly to children, was an important part of instilling an appreciation for nature and its inhabitants.

Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder, photo by Kevin Inman
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci
Kevin Inman
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder, photo by Kevin Inman
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci
Kevin Inman
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder, photo by Kevin Inman
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci
Kevin Inman

Bradley (nee Unex) & Mom cat
Bradley (nee Unex) & Mom cat

Dave Sauder, Trustee, reminisces about Unex
A few years ago, while patrolling the perimeter trail with my friend, Bobbie Bateman, we looked over into the brush and saw what we thought was a baby deer curled up. As we got closer, we realized the animal was a very shy, nervous, young golden retriever mixed breed dog. After much coaxing, we were able to get Unex, as we named him at the time, to trust us. He was soon at our side, bounding around, seemingly overjoyed to find friendly people and, I suspect, hoping to get some food. We did not know how long Unex had been on Refuge land, but it was obvious he had been scrounging not very successfully for food. The Refuge fostered him until he was adopted by a family. The people renamed him Bradley and he quickly became a happy member of the family. The picture shows Bradley with his feline companion, Mom cat. Although our primary mission is to protect wildlife, we make sure that we try to help anyone who ends up at the Refuge.

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 (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

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

Birds killed by colliding with buildings, American Bird Conservancy
Bird deaths from collisions

Bill to make federal buildings bird friendly by preventing collisions
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge has welcomed the reintroduction of a bill to prevent the deaths of birds from building collisions. The bipartisan Bird-Safe Buildings Act, which has been reintroduced by U.S. Representative Mike Quigley (IL-05) with Representative Morgan Griffith (VA-09), (co-sponsors are Reps. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Lee Zeldin (NY-01)), requires new or significantly altered federal buildings to include bird-safe building materials and design features in their construction.

Hundreds of millions of birds die every year after colliding with glass exteriors. The bill will protect birds and prevent their deaths by eliminating indoor light display in buildings to the outside.

"Almost one third of all bird species in the U.S. hold endangerment status, which gives us the responsibility to protect birds from preventable deaths," said Rep. Quigley. "By using materials that conceal indoor lighting to the outside, we can dramatically reduce the frequency of birds colliding with glass buildings. With birding activities supporting 620,000 jobs and bringing in $6.2 billion in state tax revenues, this is both an environmental and economic issue with a relatively simple, cost-neutral, and humanitarian fix."

What you can do: Please contact your U.S. Representative and Senators and urge them to vote for this legislation:

Polar bears,
Polar bears,

Protect polar bears. No oil drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge: The Arctic Slope Regional Corporation is lobbying the US Department of Interior to rush environmental impact surveys so that it can drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The ANWR is home to polar bears and other species and should be allowed to remain free from consumptive exploitation -- the logic is in the name: Refuge. It is not a resource for financial gain. Please tell the Corporation that you value the wildlife living at the ANWR more than you desire to have additional sources of oil: sign and share the petition.


Urge Puerto Rico to shut down the Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo: Although no wild animals should be imprisoned in zoos, the conditions at Dr. Juan A. Rivero Zoo are particularly poor. Rather than invest funds into 'improving' this morally inappropriate situation, it would be far better to re-home the animals to a sanctuary (or rehabilitate those who can return to a natural habitat). Please urge Puerto Rico to shut down this zoo and relocate the animals: sign and share this petition.

The team for this edition

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
  • Janet Romano, story contributor

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