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, Feb 2020

We are delighted to report on the progress that has been made with the construction of our new headquarters. The outer structure is almost complete, the windows and doors are almost all in and the plumbing and heating is being installed. Below are some photos that illustrate the progress. This project has only been possible because of the generosity of you, our supporters. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has already donated, including a recent gift of $20,000 from an anonymous source.

We still need, however, to raise a further $85,000 in order to complete the project. If you have not yet donated -- or would like to provide additional funds -- we hope you will help us in this time of need:

All donations for this much needed infrastructure will help to ensure long term stability for the Refuge by providing for office space and accommodations for our residential manager. As many of you who have visited the Refuge know, having someone live and work onsite maximizes our ability to protect this wonderful habitat, which provides a unique haven for wildlife, including species officially listed as endangered or threatened in New Jersey.

New headquarters, photo by Leor Veleanu
New headquarters
Leor Veleanu
Siding, photo by Dave Sauder
Dave Sauder
View from future office, photo by Dave Sauder
View from future office
Dave Sauder
Attic and living space, photo by Dave Sauder
Attic and living space
Dave Sauder

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

News items

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge will be at these events
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. Tabling at events helps us to educate others about our important wildlife protection and habitat preservation work. Even if you cannot help directly, just stop by and say hello.

Juvenile great horned owl, photo by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, co-founder
Juvenile great horned owl
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci

Lines on the Pines 15 March 2020
The Refuge will once again be setting up an educational table at the annual Lines on the Pines event. 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.

Where: Stockton University Campus Center, 101 Vera King Farris Drive, Galloway, NJ 08205
When: Sunday 15 March 2020, from 11 AM - 4 PM
Theme: Owls of the NJ Pine Barrens

ACUA Earth Day logo
ACUA Earth Day

Atlantic County Utilities Authority Earth Day Festival 26 April 2020
We will also be at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA) Annual Earth Day Festival.

Where: ACUA Environmental Park, 6700 Delilah Road, Egg Harbor Township, NJ 08234
When: Sunday 26 April 2020, from 10 AM - 4 PM

Some of the trash from 2019, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Trash from 2019

Annual Unexpected Wildlife Refuge Earth Day Cleanup 19 April 2020
On Sunday 19 April, the Refuge will be hosting our annual Earth Day Cleanup. Rain or shine, we will start at 11 AM on Piney Hollow Road, which is a very busy, two-lane road bordering part of the Refuge. Families are welcome. If you have young children, it will be safer to assign you a small section of our boundary trail, instead of the main road.

This is an important and long-time event for us, 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.

Afterward, 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 be aware that we do not allow any beverages in plastic bottles nor any items in 'black plastic' at the Refuge.

RSVP by Wednesday 15 April, either to or by calling our office number: 856.697.3541.

Sea turtle eating plastic bag; photo by shutterstock
Sea turtle eating plastic bag

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge joins another important environmental coalition
Although we 'act locally' much of the time, dealing with wildlife issues close to home, we also 'think globally', recognizing that all wildlife and environmental issues are interconnected regardless of locale. Through our association with the Endangered Species Coalition, for example, we have lent our support for issues such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which will reaffirm longstanding protections for birds from industrial hazards and the Thirty by Thirty Resolution to Save Nature, a resolution that calls upon the federal government to establish a national goal of conserving at least 30 percent of the land and 30 percent of the ocean of the United States by 2030.

We have now added our voice to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, dedicated to educating the public about the negative effects of plastic on the environment and its inhabitants. Even before joining this coalition, the Refuge has always been concerned about the use of plastic, particularly so-called single-use plastic. We have long recognized that recycling is not the answer; refraining from producing is the only way to ensure that such plastic does not end up in the environment. We have a strict policy, for example, prohibiting the use of any plastic beverage containers at the Refuge.

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.

Beavers to be released in plan to ease flooding and aid biodiversity
Eurasian beaver, photo Ian Sherratt/Alamy Stock Photo
Eurasian beaver
Ian Sherratt
Steven Morris describes a project to increase biodiversity and reduce catastrophic flooding by the reintroduction of beavers into land maintained by the National Trust, UK.
Beavers Continue Their Rhode Island Comeback
Beaver, photo istock
Todd McLeish reports on the return of beavers to their natural habitat in parts of Rhode Island. Although there is a recognition of the beneficial aspects of beavers on the environment, we do not agree with any of the reported 'management' methods that involve killing beavers.
On an English Estate, Reintroduced Beavers Might Make a Damn Difference
Eurasian beaver, photo Artur Rydzewski
Eurasian beaver
Artur Rydzewski
Jessica Leigh Hester provides an update on the status of Eurasian beavers introduced onto selected National Trust land in the UK.
Experts hail success for England's only wild beavers
Beavers along River Otter, photo Michael Symes/Devon Wildlife Trust/PA
Beavers, River Otter
Michael Symes
This uncredited report describes the beneficial results from beavers reintroduced into the River Otter in the UK.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
White-tailed deer along Miller Pond stream, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
White-tailed deer, Miller Pond
Beaver eating water lily in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver, main pond

Good news: Beaver trapping and deer killing bills in NJ are stopped!
Two bills that would have removed restrictions on the killing of beavers and deer in NJ have been stopped. In the case of S3407/A2731, the beaver trapping bill, Governor Murphy vetoed it despite it having been voted through by the Assembly and Senate.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our urgent appeals and contacted their legislators and Governor Murphy to stop these appalling bills. You had a positive influence on wildlife in NJ!

We will continue to protect and defend beavers and deer (and others), many of whom, like those pictured, enjoy a safe haven at our Refuge.

Imprisoned sea lion
Sea lion

Please oppose plans to expand Turtle Back Zoo
Essex County Turtle Back Zoo is an 'entertainment' complex that imprisons wild animals, including flamingos, giraffes, lions, penguins and sea lions. Plans have been submitted that would take an acre away from the neighboring South Mountain Reservation so that Turtle Back Zoo can build an $8 million amphitheater, lights and video screens.

Please join Essex County residents who want no further development of the Turtle Back Zoo by signing and sharing this petition:

Sand tiger shark; public domain
Sand tiger shark
public domain

More good news: New Jersey to ban the possession, sale, trade and distribution of shark fins
Under a new law signed by Gov Phil Murphy, shark fins will be banned in NJ from 1st January 2021. New Jersey is the 14th state to introduce such a ban. The new legislation will prohibit the sale, trade, distribution or offering for sale of shark fins, as well as the possession of any shark fin that is separated from a shark who is caught and released.

Thank you to everyone who responded to our appeal and contacted their Assembly members last November, urging them to support the bill, which will end NJ's contribution to the cruel global trade in shark fins.

American black bear cubs; photo Jean Beaufort
American black bear cubs
Jean Beaufort

And the bad news: Bears of NJ still need our support
Tragically, there is no encouraging news for the bears of NJ. Governor Murphy continues to ignore calls for him to fulfill his campaign promise to end this annual slaughter, and 315 of these wonderful beings were hunted and killed during November and December of 2019.

Please continue to contact Gov Murphy about his campaign promise; say that you have been encouraged by his actions relative to beavers, deer and sharks and urge him to extend his humanity to bears.
Telephone: 609.292.6000; Tweet: @GovMurphy

Snapshots of life at the Refuge
Ribbon snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Ribbon snake

Ribbon snake on dike of main pond
We came across this ribbon snake while walking along the dike that borders the main pond. Although we cannot be sure, the general body 'thinness' suggested this was a male. He assumed a mildly defensive posture as we got this photograph and then rapidly slithered out of sight. Ribbon snakes are non-venomous and completely harmless to people. If picked up (we strongly discourage this for the snake's sake), they may try to bite ineffectually, but more likely they will expel a foul-smelling excrement in an effort to discourage their captor. This species is a form of garter snake and is classified in the same genus (Thamnophis). They differ from other species of similar-appearing garter snakes in that they are generally thinner, have longer tails and somewhat different stripes and have a prominent white 'crescent' in front of each eye.

Ladybug pupa, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Ladybug pupa

Ladybug in the making
Many people with a garden of any size in New Jersey have probably seen the colorful spotted insects referred to as ladybugs or ladybirds. Like many insects, ladybugs (or lady beetles, a preferred name by entomologists who do not classify them as bugs) begin life as larvae who appear dissimilar to their adult form. After many days living off aphids or other prey, they pupate (as seen in this photo of one at the Refuge) for a period of time before emerging as adults. Although mother ladybugs do not protect their eggs or offspring, they often lay the eggs where there is ample food (namely aphid colonies) and out of the way of danger (often on the underside of a leaf). Some of you will also know that ladybugs sometimes inflict a painful bite for reasons that are unclear to us. For at least this reason, we marvel at their beauty when they land on us, but then quickly encourage them to 'fly away home'.

North American opossum in Bluebird Field, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
North American opossum

Opossum and Refuge manager meet up in Bluebird Field
Jen, our recently hired manager, has been exploring as much of the Refuge as she can in order to become familiar with the trails and rich habitat. Because she arrived in winter, she has seen a somewhat 'subdued' version of the animal and plant life. As she found her way to Bluebird Field, she came upon this adult North American opossum rummaging around amongst the leaves. Generally not active during the day, this one may have ventured out because of hunger. Rather than take any chances in the presence of a potential 'predator' (not that Jen would ever hurt any animal), this individual quickly scampered off into cover, but not before Jen was able to get a few nice photos.

Jumping spider in Miller House, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Jumping spider in Miller House
Jumping spider in Miller House, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Jumping spider in Miller House

Seven-legged kitchen companion
Not all wildlife at the Refuge resides in natural habitat. This adorable jumping spider, seen here on a sheet of kitchen roll, lives in the Miller House. Jen says: She is very curious and often comes out and watches me when I am moving around in the kitchen. She has been here for at least a month and a half. She has features of a canopy jumping spider, but whatever species name has been given her, she seems quite content and I enjoy having her around. If she is young enough to have a molt in her future, perhaps she will have a regrowth of the absent front left leg. To make things even more 'complicated' with respect to this spider's scientific classification, some species of jumping spiders can hybridize. We do not think any of this matters; "a rose by any other name..."

Beaver lodges and food raft in main pond, photo by Dave Sauder
Beaver lodges, food raft
Dave Sauder
Beaver lodge main pond, new headquarters in background, photo by Dave Sauder
Beaver lodge, headquarters
Dave Sauder

A tale of two homes...and more
During Jen's orientation to the Refuge by Trustee Dave Sauder, they came across various beaver lodges. Some of the lodges showed signs of recent activity (what a thrill it would be to have a camera inside to get a photo of a family resting on that cold winter day). The small lodge in one of the photos is new since 2017 and was likely built by the offspring of the main family. Off in the distance from one of the lodges, the new headquarters could be seen through the trees...current beaver home and future manager home. Alas, Jen has yet to see the beavers, but spring will be here soon and we are confident that she will get to experience the joy of watching them as they navigate the waterways. It is also likely that kits will be making their first appearance into their new and expanded home.

Wild turkeys and the incident with Trustee Dave Sauder
While patrolling during shotgun week, Dave had an unforgettable encounter with a flock of wild turkeys. I was seated with my back to a tree in the forest when I saw about 30 turkeys running single file off in the distance. The turkeys probably had become alarmed by Dave's presence. As the late afternoon turned into evening and darkness, I headed back towards base. At the boardwalk near Bluebird Field, there was a cacophony of beating wings in the tree branches above my head. I looked up and saw that the turkeys I had seen earlier had roosted in the trees for the night. Unfortunately, my 'intrusion' once again startled them and they were hastily relocating themselves to a 'safer' area. Although there was no need for the turkeys to be alarmed, we are glad that they recognized human beings as a potential threat. Such vigilance may serve them well if they wander off Refuge land. (Dave did not have a camera at the time, but we are sharing a few of our archival photos.)

Wild turkeys, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge trail camera photo
Wild turkeys, trail camera
Wild turkey among trees, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Wild turkey among trees
Wild turkey in tree, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Wild turkey in tree

Great egret on stump in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Great egret

Great egret rests on stump in the main pond
Although not 'colorful' in the traditional sense, great egrets, also known as common or large egrets, are nevertheless striking in appearance. We see them regularly in and around the main pond. The rich fauna of the main pond affords these birds abundant animals on whom they prey. Although we have not seen fledgling egrets, we assume that breeding occurs at the Refuge and that in the spring, males will begin preparing nest sites to attract females. Maybe we will get lucky with a well-placed trail camera to get some visual media to enjoy and share at some point.

Autumn meadowhawk dragonflies in tandem, photo by Dave Sauder
Autumn meadowhawk dragonflies
Dave Sauder

Autumn meadowhawk dragonflies in tandem
Dragonflies are ubiquitous around the waterways at the Refuge. There are many varieties -- around 180 species in NJ according to various sources -- and we are not experts at differentiating them. Further, trying to appreciate all the features of an individual in flight or when they briefly alight on something is difficult. That is where a camera becomes indispensable. The dragonflies pictured here had landed on a shade umbrella at an observation site near the main pond. They remained there long enough for Trustee Dave Sauder to get this photo. We were able to identify the insects as autumn meadowhawks. Like the name suggests, this species tends to remain active later in the year than most others. After mating, the female will often fly with the male still attached 'in tandem' (male in front, as in this photo), laying her eggs near the shoreline of lakes and ponds.

More evidence of vibrant population of beavers at the Refuge
We may not be able to match the zeal Hope had for beavers, but we must not be far behind. Smiles are involuntary as we watch the beavers play in the main pond, examine a stream with an eye to building a dam, chew on a poplar or other tree for a snack or building materials. When the kits come out to explore their new world, we may even take on a foolish countenance as our joy at seeing them stretches our facial muscles to the limit. Alas, exploitation by people has caused these normally diurnal individuals to become more active in the evenings and night time. This means that visitors may only get to see indirect evidence of their presence. We have numerous lodges in all the waterways, many having been built within the last few years. Examples of the ingenuity and industriousness abound in the maintenance and creation of new dams. And, the sharpness and strength of the rodents' teeth are evident in the trees that have been cut down for food or building materials.

Beaver lodge in stream on way to Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Lodge, near Miller Pond
Beaver lodge near Wild Goose Blind, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Lodge (note very long log used)
Stump after beavers cut down tree, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Tree stump
Fresh downed tree with nibbled areas, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
'Dining' tree

Sulphur shelf fungus, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Sulphur shelf fungus
Tall beaksedge, photo by Sage Russell
Tall beaksedge
Sage Russell
Pignut hickory, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Pignut hickory
Green arrow arum, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Green arrow arum

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.

Emetic russula mushroom, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Emetic russula mushroom
Common blue violet, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Common blue violet
Hairy bittercress, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hairy bittercress
Poison ivy, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Poison ivy

Take action to help wildlife at the Refuge
Blue jay, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Blue jay

Support us through donations and other venues
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, and its nearly 800 acres of protected habitat, is home and sanctuary for hundreds of animal and plant species; many of the animal species have been here for generations. We depend entirely on the generosity of our supporters to keep this vibrant habitat safe and flourishing.

There are many simple ways to help the Refuge:

Young beaver with branch, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Young beaver with branch

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, please let us know and 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.

American black bear; Wikimedia
American black bear

Ask Amazon to stop the sale of leg hold traps: In 2018, we reported that was selling live lobsters through the mail and asked you to not only write them, but also boycott them. Amazon continues to demonstrate that is has no moral compass when it comes to other life. We were shocked to learn that Amazon sells steel jaw leghold traps! Read more below our action request.

What you should do:

Background: Although certain foothold traps are legal in the US, it is illegal to use such traps on black bears. Nevertheless, bears appear to be getting caught in these traps, as evidenced by reports of several bears in NC with absent limbs. Help Asheville Bears, a group in NC, has started the petition above, calling on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, to "immediately cease the sales of steel-jaw leg hold/foot hold traps, snare traps, and attractants on, as these are used in poaching and the maiming of bears and other wildlife." The group states that Amazon is breaching its own policy by selling foothold traps because its list of prohibited items includes, "Products intended to be used to produce an illegal product or undertake an illegal activity."

Coyote victim;
Coyote victim

Call to end killing contests on federal land: Efforts to end wildlife killing contests are increasing across the US. Massachusetts recently joined Arizona, California, New Mexico and Vermont in banning these cruel events (in which participants compete to kill the greatest number of a single species, including bobcats, coyotes, foxes and squirrels). New York and Oregon are also considering laws on the issue. Sadly, these barbaric wildlife killing contests are still taking place in other states, including New Jersey. A petition, calling for an end to animal-killing contests on all federal land, has almost 250,000 signatures.

What you should do:

Polar bear mom and cubs; photo by Susanne Miller, USFWS
Polar bear mom and cubs
Susanne Miller, USFWS

Help end the hunting of polar bears in Canada: Polar bears are experiencing unprecedented pressure due to global warming and environmental pollution. If that was not enough, they are also being slaughtered by hunters, particularly in Canada, despite the fact that this species is now threatened with extinction. Hunting is a major cause of decline in the numbers of this important predator of the north. The Canadian government must put a stop to this.

What you should do:

Contact us

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