Beaver Tales from Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, June 2021
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci
Summer is underway and we've noticed a significant increase in activity at the Refuge. Vegetation is full and green, flowers are blooming, and we are seeing wildlife everywhere. Around headquarters we see turtles, frogs and toads, and dragonflies daily. Beavers have been observed swimming in the main pond. Our black vulture couple, while still present, are likely incubating their eggs as we don't see them quite as often, and when we do, it is only one at a time.
We are concentrating on two major projects at the Refuge. The first is the establishment of an educational center in the Miller House. Our manager is working on moving all of Hope's books, artwork and writings into the Miller House library. This month marks the twentieth year since Hope's passing, and establishing the educational center will be one of the best ways of continuing her legacy. Please read a tribute to Hope written by a long time supporter, in the 'A glimpse at our past' section.
The other project we are working on is repairing the boardwalk across the dike on the main pond, which we will touch on further in our 'News items' section below.
If you would like to help with trail maintenance, or any of our current projects, or if you would simply like to visit, hike our trails and take in the beauty of the Refuge, call 856-697-3541 or email email@example.com to schedule.
Contents of this month's newsletter:
Boardwalk repair across the dike at our main pond
We are in the process repairing the boardwalk across the dike on the main pond. Our neighbor John Lawless, and his friend, Ethan Harris, have generously offered their time and labor in this effort. They, along with Trustee Dave Sauder, have spent numerous hours thus far assessing and working on removing a large uprooted tree and repairing the boardwalks. Due to the reported eight percent increase in rainfall over the past ten years, there is a need to raise the the boardwalk from its original height. We are considering building new environmentally approved boardwalks out of recycled materials throughout the Refuge, which will require a major financial investment. We will be seeking grants to fund the project but if you would like to help with the funding, please consider making a donation. Keeping the trails navigable is vital to the involvement of the public and longevity of the Refuge.
Pink lady slipper
photo by Ruth Eisen
Visitor adds to our photo gallery with pink lady slipper photo
Along with the warmer weather, visits to the Refuge have increased, including a visit from Ruth Eisen in May. Ruth met with our manager and then set off hiking the trails and taking many photos of the scenery. Among her photos, she pointed out a flower that she did not believe we had listed in our photo gallery. Sure enough, Ruth had taken a photo of a pink lady slipper orchid while on the boundary trail near Station 19, a species for which we had no photographic record. The pink lady slipper, a flowering plant in the orchid family, has two leaves near the ground, from between which sprouts a long stalk bearing a single pink flower. They are usually found in pine forests or deciduous woods. Many thanks to Ruth for sharing her photos and growing our photo gallery.
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 are just being beavers’: friction grows between Canadians and animals, by Leyland Cecco.
Beaver carrying food branch
Few animals can have as profound an impact on the natural world as beavers, who excavate thousands of cubic meters of soil each year to mud their lodges, build dams and dig channels.
And for a species often blamed for its destructive tendencies, research continues to show their profound effect on ecosystems. Beaver dams not only help restore valuable wetlands and recharge groundwater, but also filter out sediments, nitrogen and phosphorus from water and create havens for species like fish and frogs.
Beavers can affect wildfires, by Bill Gabbert.
Beaver dams at Susie Creek
Carol Evans, Bureau of Land Management
The job of a beaver is to build a dam and lodge across creeks using tree branches, vegetation, rocks, and mud. They chew down trees for building material. Dams impound water and lodges serve as shelters. Their infrastructure raises the water table and creates wetlands used by many other species, and because of their effect on other organisms in the ecosystem, they are considered a keystone species.
Campaigns for animals in New Jersey
American black bears
Anton Sorokin/Alamy Stock Photo
Say NO to bear traps in New Jersey
A bear trap has been placed in Tourne County Park in Morris County following a bear siting by hikers.
At this time, no bears have walked into the trap. The park police are considering reopening the park, but it is unknown whether or not the trap will remain. They are following the advice and judgment of the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).
A rep from the Morris County Park Commission says this is now a matter between the park police and the DFW. The Board of Commissioners for Morris County says it’s up to David Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission.
Please call David Helmer, Executive Director of the Morris County Park Commission, at 973-326-7610 and urge him to stop usings bear traps.
Express that you are upset by how they are handling this situation by trapping and killing a bear, and ask him to remove the trap.
Bluff charges are often mistaken for aggression.
Education can resolve conflicts, fear, and misinformation. Education is critical, particularly in this situation.
Traps are non-selective. A trap can catch any animal.
Lab testing on rabbit
Shutterstock stock photo
Ask Governor Murphy to sign the New Jersey Humane Cosmetics Act into law
The New Jersey Humane Cosmetics Act (S1726/A795), which prevents the sale of cosmetics that have been newly tested on animals passed the full Assembly (74-0-1). The last step in getting this enacted is for Governor Murphy to sign it into law.
Please contact Governor Murphy and ask him to sign the New Jersey Humane Cosmetics Act into law.
Snapshots of life at the Refuge
Male harlequin darner
Male harlequin darner
A visit with a male harlequin darner dragonfly
If you've been following our social media posts, this dragonfly may look familiar. During the month of June we have been highlighting dragonfly and damselfy species seen on the Refuge, and we recently posted a female harlequin darner dragonfly, seen on Cedar Bridge Trail last spring. Just over a year later, we were visited by a male of the same species when he landed on the shoulder of our manager's daughter outside of Headquarters. While we do not see them as often as some other species, harlequin darners have dark coloring with bright geometric patterns, a combination which helps them to stand out from the others. We appreciated the opportunity to snap some photos and get a close look, until he was ready to fly off.
Eastern wormsnake at Headquarters
Eastern wormsnakes are seldom seen above ground, so we were lucky to see this individual while doing some maintenance around Headquarters last month. Common in woodlands and wetlands, they are most often encountered hiding beneath logs, rocks, leaf litter, or other debris, and they feed almost exclusively on earthworms. They mate in the fall and spring, and females lay up to 12 eggs in the early summer. Although harmless to humans, they will often press their pointed tail tip against their captor. While we generally do not interefere with the wildlife on the Refuge, we moved this individual out of harm's way, and snapped a few quick photos before placing him/her in a safe spot.
Eastern mud turtle
Turtle nesting season in full swing
Last spring, Headquarters proved to be a popular site for female turtles laying their eggs, and this spring did not dissapoint. Since April, we have seen turtles emerging from the main pond to lay eggs almost daily. In addition to the northern red-bellied and eastern mud turtles pictured here, we regularly see common musk and eastern painted turtles as well. Female turtles lay their eggs in nesting burrows and cover them up with sand, dirt or mud, then leave them to incubate. Incubation times vary, but average around two months before hatching occurs. Not all turtles will emerge from the nest after hatching, some will overwinter in the nest and come out early the following spring.
Red velvet ant wasp
Red velvet ant wasp catches our eye at Miller Pond
This red velvet ant wasp was photographed as she scurried among the rocks alongside Miller Pond. Also referred to as red velvet ants, these insects are in fact wasps. Although they look like large, hairy ants and, since females are wingless, they are sometimes mistaken as ants. They are not aggressive, but females do have a long needle-like stinger concealed at the tip of the abdomen and can inflict a very painful sting if handled. Males have two pairs of transparent black wings, but no stinger. Red velvet ant wasps are the largest of the velvet ant species in the eastern United States, attaining an approximate length of 1.9cm.
Winter firefly on mountain laurel
Winter firefly pollinates mountain laurel
It is always enjoyable when we get to see wildlife in action, such as when we witnessed this winter firefly busy with an important role--propagating mountain laurel through pollination. Mountain laurel blooms from April to June, and grows in large thickets, covering great areas of forest floor. The flowers are hexagonal, ranging from light pink to white, and occur in clusters. While the adults of most firefly species are pollinators, the adults cannot ‘glow’ or ‘bioluminesce’, except at the very start of their adulthood. Winter fireflies have a lifespan of two years and overwinter in tree bark as adults. They are one of the first insects to appear each spring, just in time to catch the blooming mountain laurel.
Photo by Leor Veleanu
Trustee photographs prothonotary warbler near the main pond
When visiting the Refuge, Trustee and photographer, Leor Veleanu, always provides us with some beautiful photos of animals that reside here. While near the main pond last spring, this male prothonotary warbler was one subject of focus. The prothonotary warbler is a large, heavy-bodied warbler with a big head and bill. They have shorter legs and tails than other warblers, while their bills are heavier and longer than most warblers. They are bright golden yellow with blue-gray wings and tail, and a yellow-olive back, with black eyes that stand out on a solid yellow face. Females are often a paler yellow than males. They often forage above standing or slow-moving water, making our main pond a perfect location.
A glimpse at our past
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci
Beaver crossing sign
Memories of Hope by Maureen Koplow
What a perfect name for a woman who was the personification of “HOPE”.
She lived with her husband, Cavit, in a cabin in the woods of South Jersey. Surrounded by trees, facing a large pond, isolated from most of the conveniences of modern life, they were in a place of beauty and tranquility. There were birds in the trees, ducks in the pond, and best of all, beavers. For Hope, this was the perfect place to raise her children.
The street they lived on, Unexpected Road, became the name of their property, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. This was a place where animals were protected from hunters, including the next-door neighbors.
I met Cavit and Hope during the long struggle to end the use of the leghold trap in New Jersey. I had stopped eating meat, and felt a strong kinship with these fellow vegetarians. Cavit was more outgoing, and participated in protests and rallies, while Hope was more comfortable in her beloved woods, and interacting with her beloved beavers.
Although I was younger than Hope, she was far more agile and spry. I was amazed by the ease with which she maneuvered her way along the narrow concrete “boardwalks” she and Cavit had installed through the refuge. While I struggled to keep my balance and avoid falling into the pond or the wetlands, she walked quickly and confidently, patiently waiting while I tried to keep up.
I was honored when Hope invited me to join her when she took a basket of apples to a secluded part of the refuge, where we sat quietly until a family of beavers appeared. They approached us to accept their treats, then calmly waddled back into the water, slapping their tails as they swam away.*
There was so much to admire about Hope. She was a formidable Scrabble player, and consistently whipped my butt when we played. She was a talented artist and her drawings of wildlife were a delight. She was a passionate advocate for animals and the environment, and she founded the Beaver Defenders organization. She was an articulate writer, and she authored articles and books about beavers. She was a fierce defender of her home, and she organized patrols with volunteers, to keep poachers from harming the deer on the refuge.
Many people say they’d love to live in the woods, away from people, enjoying nature. But most people aren’t really willing to give up the comforts of living in cities or suburbs. Hope was willing and eager to live that life.
Her name was Hope, and her hope was for all animals to have rights, to be protected from harm. She was an inspiration, and her dream lives on.
*Although the feeding of beavers and other wildlife was at one time practiced, it is no longer done. Our current policy is that we do not allow any supplemental feeding of wildlife, as we now know that it can be detrimental to their health and safety.
Take action to help wildlife at the Refuge
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.
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 https://careasy.org/nonprofit/unexpected-wildlife-refuge 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.
Unexpected Wildlife Refuge
Mailing address: P.O. Box 765, Newfield, New Jersey 08344-0765
Web site: http://unexpectedwildliferefuge.org/