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, June 2019

Flooded perimeter trail, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Flooded trail

After what seemed like many months of torrential rain and flooding (see photo), we have now had some relatively dry weather. This has enabled us to clear more of the trails making it easier for visitors to explore and appreciate this fascinating environment. The plant life is flourishing with an abundance of beautiful flowers, attracting numerous insects to help in the cycle of life. Our main pond continues to be a vital home or resting place for waterfowl (Michael, our manager, counted 130 Canada geese in the pond at one time). Beavers are making their presence known; enjoy our recent footage of an entire family swimming and playing one late afternoon. Although we think the Refuge is a jewel all year round, it is truly a magical place in the spring and summer. We hope you will find time to visit and enjoy the wonders of nature that abound.

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

News items
Beaver feet comparison at Atlantic County Utilities Authority Earth Day Festival, 2019
Beaver feet comparison
UWR at Atlantic County Utilities Authority Earth Day Festival, 2019
UWR, ACUA Earth Day

Refuge attends Atlantic County Earth Day Festival
Trustee Janet Romano took time out from her busy schedule to set up and staff our table at the Atlantic County Utilities Authority Earth Day Festival 28th April last. She reported a good show of interest in the Refuge and its programs, with people signing up for more information or to volunteer. She set up a display of drawings of an adult beaver's feet on the ground so that people could compare sizes with their own. Children and adults alike found this entertaining and educational. Our presence at such events helps raise awareness about the plight of wildlife and the environment. Thanks to those who visited and supported our educational stand.

Beaver using tail as a warning to others; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver & tail splash

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.

Eager, book by Ben Goldfarb
Ben Goldfarb
Revisiting The Surprising, Secret Life Of Beavers & Why They Matter With Ben Goldfarb On Access Utah
Ben Goldfarb has written educational literature about beavers and why they matter. Access Utah has published a radio interview with Mr Goldfarb.

Beavers, Russell Savory photo
Russell Savory
Beavers in Essex doing 'better job' of making flood defences
The European 'cousins' of the North American beaver continue to demonstrate why these engaging rodents collectively are rightly classified as a keystone species. This article describes their reintroduction into Essex (England) and how other wildlife, the environment and people have faired well as a result.

Beaver, Ecologist photo
The return of the Beaver
Here is another story on the tangible benefits of bringing back beavers to their rightful homes, by Michelle Dibb. Ms Dibb discusses a new residential course and practical guide that will help those considering reintroducing beavers to their land. Although this involves the Eurasian beaver, the principles would likely be the same wherever beavers have been eradicated.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
Fox slaughter, NJ; photo
Fox slaughter

Outlaw wildlife killing contests in New Jersey
Efforts to end wildlife killing contests are increasing. There are currently bills to ban these cruel events (in which participants compete to kill the greatest number of a single species, including coyotes, foxes, raccoons and squirrels) in New York, Massachusetts, Oregon, California and New Jersey.

If you are a New Jersey resident and have not yet done so, we urgently need your help to pass a bill that would prohibit wildlife killing contests in New Jersey:

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

Aquarium, Shutterstock photo

More wildlife to be imprisoned to 'entertain' people
We were disappointed to learn that Woodbridge, NJ, is allowing an aquarium to be part of the Woodbridge Center Mall (see article linked in the photo). According to this article, the company involved, SeaQuest, has had serious issues involving animal abuse and the deaths of hundreds of animals, and one of the founders was sentenced in Florida federal court in 2013 for violation of wildlife regulations. For us, however, the fundamental issue is the cruelty involved in keeping any wildlife in captivity, particularly with the aim of 'entertaining' the public.

We ask that you take the following actions to try to stop this development:

  • Contact the Woodbridge Center Mall: express your disappointment and let them know you will not patronize the Mall until they end the plans for the aquarium; telephone them at 732.636.4600 or use their online form to send a message.

  • Contact Woodbridge Township Mayor John E. McCormac: politely let him know that allowing an aquarium in his Township is not in the best interests of wildlife nor the public nor is it consistent with his "Quality of Life" priority (at least not for the animals to be held in captivity); his E-mail address is or you can telephone him at 732.602.6015.

Lynx, E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation photo
E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation

S 1499 - Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act of 2019
Although this is a federal bill, one of the co-sponsors is New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. As such, we want to be sure that you are aware of this important bill that has support by one of our senators. This bill would provide protection and restoration of certain native fish, other wildlife and plant species. It has bi-partisan support in Congress.

Many animals use pathways called wildlife corridors to travel hundreds of miles to find food and mates. Protecting these corridors can secure the future of American fauna and flora.

According to biologist and naturalist E.O. Wilson,"The Wildlife Corridors Conservation Act would provide the most important step of any single piece of legislation at the present time in enlarging the nation's protected areas and thereby saving large swaths of America's wildlife and other fauna and flora, especially in this critical time of climate change and shifting locations of the original environments in which a large part of biodiversity has existed."

This bill is in the first stage of the legislative process. It is currently in the Senate Environment and Public Works committee. Give your support:

  • Contact Senator Cory Booker and thank him for co-sponsoring S 1499; use his Web form or send him a Tweet: @SenBooker

Click here to follow the progression of S 1499.

American black bear cubs, iStock photo
American black bear cubs

Keep saying NO to bear hunting in New Jersey
We need to keep the pressure up 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
Great blue herons and Canada geese in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Great blue herons & Canada geese
Great blue herons in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Great blue herons

Great blue herons and Canada geese in main pond
Having seen one great blue heron fly over the main pond, Michael crawled quietly onto a viewing pier which extends into the lake. Hidden by thick stands of woolgrass and soft rush, he waited for the right moment to emerge to take a photo after the heron had landed. As he was about to press the shutter button, another heron flew into view and landed nearby. Soon, a couple Canada geese joined the group. The great blues are the largest of the herons in North America.

Eastern painted turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern painted turtle
Dave Sauder

Eastern painted turtle found crossing our driveway
Last issue, we showed you a baby eastern painted turtle who was walking along our lane. During a recent visit to volunteer at the Refuge, Trustee Dave Sauder came across this adult turtle, also walking along our lane near headquarters. Judging from the sand coating the rear end of her carapace and her hind foot, we are guessing that she was just heading back to the main pond after laying a clutch of eggs. The few times we have seen any species of turtle in the process of laying eggs, it has been when they had chosen a trail as their site. Unfortunately, we never seemed to have a camera handy...

Eastern phoebe, photo by Leor Veleanu
Eastern phoebe
Leor Veleanu
Prothonotary warbler, photo by Leor Veleanu
Prothonotary warbler
Leor Veleanu

New Trustee enjoys the richness of spring at the Refuge
Leor Veleanu, our newest Trustee, is an avid wildlife photographer, particularly of birds. He recently visited the Refuge to see what treasures might be in store for his camera. He stated: "When I got out of the car, two eastern wood pewees were singing and responding to each other. As expected while continuing to explore the Refuge, I heard more bird species than I saw. The most persistent bird song was that of the ovenbird; their song was audible everywhere during my walk. The highlight for me as far as birds was a pair of prothonotary warblers." He also saw a Baltimore oriole, eastern kingbirds, ruby-throated hummingbirds and several phoebes. We share a couple of Leor's photos here and hope to provide more in future newsletters.

Ring-necked snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Ring-necked snake

Young ring-necked snake
While moving some items stored outside into one of our sheds, Michael found this ring-necked snake who had been hiding under some of the material. This species of snake is common in our area, although, being nocturnal, they are not readily seen during the day. Like all snakes in this region, they are not aggressive towards people. They produce a mild toxin (not at all harmful to people) which is used to help subdue prey by the use of the snake's rear fangs. Although surprised during his daytime slumber, this individual stayed around for a few moments before slithering away into a more secure hiding place.

Main pond and water lilies, photo by Dave Sauder
Main pond
Dave Sauder
Beaver eating yellow water lilies, 17 May 2019
Beaver & water lilies

Beaver eating lilies in main pond
This beaver was making quite a meal of the yellow water lilies that grow in the main pond. Although almost completely free of these plants during the late fall and winter, the lilies burgeon in the spring to cover large areas of the surface of the pond, as you can see in a photo taken by Trustee Dave Sauder just last May.
Click on the photo of the beaver or the title link to see the video taken by Michael. We hope you enjoy watching this hungry guy as much as we did.

Antlion traps, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Antlion traps
Antlion trap near entrances to ant homes, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Antlion trap near ant home

Antlion traps
Antlions, also known as antlion lacewings or doodlebugs, are curious (to us) little insects who start out as larvae living underground. They prey on ants (and others) by building conical 'traps' in sand. When an ant wanders over the edge of the trap, the loose sand often prevents escape. As the ant tries to climb out, grains of sand cascade down and alert the antlion who rapidly emerges from the bottom of the cone to grab the hapless individual. You can see in the first photo that one antlion set up their trap between two ant burrow openings, perhaps to increase the chance of a meal. When large enough, the larva pupates, undergoes metamorphosis and emerges as an adult who is often mistaken for a dragonfly or similar winged insect.

Eastern cottontail rabbit, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern cottontail rabbit
Eastern cottontail rabbit, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern cottontail rabbit

Eastern cottontail rabbit wanders near headquarters
We never get tired of seeing the rabbits who take advantage of the food and shelter on offer at the Refuge. This individual was seen in the area between our 'cabin' and the main pond. She stood still long enough for Michael to get a photo, then turned, seemingly to allow a different perspective for our files or maybe to show us what appear to be ticks attached to the inside of her left ear.

Red-spotted purple butterfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Red-spotted purple
Red-spotted purple butterfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Red-spotted purple

Red-spotted purple butterfly
The red-spotted purple butterfly has a variety of wing patterns, an evolution of mimicry. When the pattern involves the presence of striking white bands, people call these individuals white admirals. It is believed that those individuals who are designated the red-spotted purple, like the one we saw recently (see photos), developed their pattern in order to mimic the pipevine butterfly. The latter is poisonous to their predators.

Spiky bog-moss, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Spiky bog-moss
Mountain laurel, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Mountain laurel
Catchweed, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Sweetbay magnolia, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Sweetbay magnolia

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. Michael, who is an expert on wild plants, has added to our growing list through the identification and photographing of many dozens of additional ones in the short time he has been manager. These photos represent just a few examples of the diversity of species. You can see the full list of the hundreds of species we have identified over the years on our Plants at the Refuge page on our Web site.

Fungi on log, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Fungi on log
Canadian columbine, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Canadian columbine
Kerria, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Lily of the valley, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Lily of the valley

A glimpse at our past
White-tailed deer mother and child, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
White-tailed deer

Trustee Janet Romano recalls her early involvement with the Refuge
"Every December, when I would head out to the cabin to patrol during 'deer season', I did so with mixed emotions. On the one hand, the reason for my presence was serious -- innocent lives were at risk. On the other hand, I knew I would get to see my dear friend, Hope, as well as other animal-friendly people, some of whom became lifelong friends. Everyone would bring a delicious vegetarian meal or dessert to share. After spending several hours out in the field, we would head back to the cabin for a break, something to eat and to warm up from the frigid temperatures. Then we would grab our 'walkie talkies' (no cell phones then!) and head back out. Although I knew that animals not at the Refuge were being killed as I patrolled, I took comfort in the fact that my presence helped in some small way to protect others."

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

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

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

Bird on nest, sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Bird on nest 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.

Tiger behind bars, Care2 photo
Tiger behind bars

Historic opportunity in U.S to prohibit traveling circuses keeping wild animals: In May of this year, Representatives Grijalva (D-AZ) and Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced the Traveling Exotic Animal and Public Safety Protection Act (TEAPSPA; HR 2863), which would amend the Animal Welfare Act to prohibit traveling circuses and exhibitions from keeping certain wild animals, including elephants, lions and tigers. This is an historic piece of legislation with bipartisan support.

What you can do:

Click here to follow the progression of HR 2863.

Gray wolf, photo
Gray wolf

Keep gray wolves safe from slaughter: The US government continues to wage war on wildlife and the environment. Despite the facts that gray wolves are a critical large predator, a vital part of a healthy and diverse ecosystem, far from being safe of the threat of extinction, the Trump administration wants to remove this species from Endangered Species Act protection. We must not allow this to happen!

Please sign and share this petition to stop this assault on wolves: Keep Gray Wolves Safe From Slaughter

Captive elephant, photo by Kirsten Luce
Captive elephant
Kirsten Luce

Your holidays should not support animal abuse: Wild animals are imprisoned for human 'entertainment' throughout much of the world. They are often used as tourist attractions, but an uninformed public are not aware of just how cruel these situations are. National Geographic has published an informative exposé on this subject. Please read this article and plan your holidays accordingly so that you do not inadvertently support this abhorrent situation. Let your travel advisers and prospective resorts know why you will no longer patronize them so that they get the message that animal abuse is not an acceptable way to do business.

You can see the full article here: Suffering unseen: The dark truth behind wildlife tourism

Contact us

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