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, October 2018

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

News items:
Michael Puleo, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge manager

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge has a new manager
We are pleased to announce that we have hired Michael Puleo as our onsite manager for the Refuge. Michael is an avid naturalist, backpacker and forager. He is a long time animal and environmental activist and holds a B.S. in Environmental Science. He is a vegan. Raised in the New Jersey Pinelands region, his experience and knowledge of indigenous animals and plants will be a welcome part of our public outreach and education efforts. You can contact Michael through our office telephone (856.697.3541) or E-mail (

Refuge headquarters ('cabin') from the air, Cliff Compton photo
Aerial view (C Compton)
Refuge headquarters ('cabin')
Refuge headquarters ('cabin')

Refuge moving forward to replace failing headquarters building
Our headquarters building, which we affectionately refer to as the cabin, is showing signs of its age. There is considerable deterioration of important structural components. Our initial plan was to do a major renovation, but the cost of doing this would equal a modest, new building replacement. We have now received preliminary approval from The Pinelands Commission to replace the cabin.

We desperately need a headquarters building; it is not a luxury for the Refuge and the replacement we have in mind would be modest and environmentally-friendly. The most important function for this building is to provide living quarters for our onsite manager, a critical component of keeping the Refuge -- and wildlife -- safe from harm. Once we have a firm figure for this new building, we will begin raising funds in earnest. You do not have to wait for this appeal! We have set up a special account for this purpose and your donations, now, whatever the amount, will be added and gratefully received.

Beaver and lily pads, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Although making a comeback, beavers are far from safe
We reported previously that the North American beaver is making a strong comeback. But, this persecuted keystone species is still being trapped and killed in New Jersey. Beaver trapping 'season' runs from this 26th December through 9th February. During October, for a mere $2 fee, trappers can apply for a permit to trap 200 beavers in 30 locations throughout the state! The permit itself costs $15 and permits are even awarded via the lottery system. We are appalled that these iconic and fascinating animals continue to be cruelly trapped and killed in NJ despite an increasing awareness of their importance to the health of our ecosystem. Unexpected Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for beavers and continues to work hard to protect the species.

You can help beavers by contacting your state legislators and ask that they sponsor a bill to put an end to beaver killing in New Jersey.

Jake Bornyasz and his 'crew'
Jake and 'crew'
Dave Sauder and Jake Bornyasz
Dave and Jake

Another successful Eagle Scout project at the Refuge
We are always in need of volunteers to help with keeping our trails cleared and posted so that visitors can enjoy the Refuge. Earlier this month, we were fortunate to have the volunteer services of Jake Bornyasz, a Boy Scout seeking Eagle Scout status. With tireless supervision by Refuge Trustee Dave Sauder, Jake and his 'crew' spent a day clearing one long section of our trails. They also took down signs that had been nailed to trees (no longer allowed, for the trees' sake) and re-installed them on metal posts. We thank Jake and his friends for this great service to the Refuge. We have much more to do and you can contact us to volunteer, whether you are a Boy Scout looking for a community service project or just want to help the Refuge. Call us at 856.697.3541 or E-mail us:

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

Refuge featured in the New Jersey news media, a leading digital news provider in New Jersey, has published a nice article about the Refuge and its important role in protecting wildlife and habitat. You can read the entire article here: We hope you will enjoy and share widely.

Update on NJ bear hunting -- your help still needed
The New Jersey bear hunt started on Monday 8th October. Shockingly, within just two days, 59 of these majestic and sentient animals were killed by bow hunters.

Governor Murphy has failed to deliver on his campaign promise to end New Jersey's bear hunt. Please continue to pressure the Governor and state legislators to do something permanently to protect this species critical to the ecosystem.

Call (609-292-6000) and tweet Governor Murphy (@GovMurphy promised to cancel the #bearhunt).

Inhumane traps, Animal Protection League of NJ
Inhumane traps

Urge NJ Governor Phil Murphy and legislators to ban leghold traps
In 1984, the Refuge was part of a coalition that was instrumental in getting leghold traps banned in NJ. Other types of inhumane traps continue to be legal, including the notorious Conibear. The Fish and Game Council (FGC) recently circumvented this law by allowing 'enclosed foothold traps', which are still inhumane.

When the FGC declared in 2015 that the 'enclosed foothold' trap was 'humane' and not prohibited by the 1984 law, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge joined a coalition of 32 other organizations, including the Animal Protection League of NJ and the Animal Welfare Institute, in a campaign to block this decision. A lawsuit against the FGC was filed. Incredibly, the following year, a state appellate court ruled that the modified trap was deemed not cruel and inhumane, and could continue to be used in NJ.

We ask all NJ residents to do the following:

  1. Urge your legislators to support Senate Bill S179, sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal, and Assembly Bill A3110, sponsored by Assemblypersons Daniel Benson and Raj Mukherji (if you do not know who your legislators are or how to contact them, click here for the legislative contact Web page)
  2. Governor Murphy agreed that leghold traps are "horrible"; he can invalidate the Fish and Game Council's regulation with a simple executive order; ask him to do so, now: 609.292.6000; PO Box 001, Trenton, NJ 08625

The steel-jaw leghold trap and its ilk cause appalling suffering not only due to the pain and damage from the jaws closing in a vice-like grip on the animal's foot, leg, or other part of the body, but also from the efforts of the animal to escape this. They have already been outlawed in many countries.

Snapshots of life at the Refuge:
Canada geese swimming in Miller Pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Canada geese, Miller Pond

Canada geese swimming in Miller Pond
We never tire of observing Canada geese at the Refuge. Most often, we see them flying onto and swimming in the main pond. The group in the photo, however, were seen paddling through one of the waterways in Miller Pond, which has reverted to largely a marsh since human influence was terminated years ago and nature was allowed to 'do its thing'.

'Dead' eastern hog-nosed snake, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Playing dead
Eastern hog-nosed snake threatening, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

Hog-nosed snake fools attacker
This juvenile hog-nosed snake was being threatened by a snake of another species. When she could not scare off the other by flattening her head (see photo) and other 'aggressive' behavior, she then did what hog-nosed snakes do well: rolled over on her back, opened her mouth to allow her tongue to loll out and lay without movement; a convincing portrayal of 'death'. Once the danger had passed, she 'miraculously' came alive and slithered off into the undergrowth.

Nedim Buyukmihci, son of Refuge co-founder Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, fondly remembers one of the rare times he was able to teach his mother about wildlife. He had brought home a hog-nosed snake to show his mom. Seeing the limp body, tongue hanging loosely from a contorted and open mouth, Hope exclaimed that the snake was dead. With a knowing smile on his face, Ned placed the 'dead' snake in a nearby wheelbarrow and told his mom to step back and watch. After several uneventful minutes, the 'dead' snake's head materialized above the side of the wheelbarrow, saw the human bystanders and quickly dropped from sight, once more 'dead'.

Eastern box turtle, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern box turtle

Welcome sighting of an eastern box turtle
This species is struggling to exist in a world of narrowing opportunities. Outright loss of habitat as well as fragmentation of existing habitat make survival difficult. The Refuge is fortunate to be able to provide an excellent environment for these wonderful reptiles, like the one shown here, seen along one of the trails.

Fowler's toad, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Fowler's toad

Fowler's toad and the ambitious garter snake
This Fowler's toad was being attacked by a snake. Of course, we would never interfere with nature and simply watched the tableau unfold. The snake in question was a small garter snake, surely too small to be a real threat...just overambitious. After several ineffective strikes at the toad, the snake moved off into the forest.

Diving female hooded merganser
We were watching this female hooded merganser swimming in the main pond a few months ago. Lucky to have a camera handy, we were able to catch her transitioning from swimming to diving below the surface of the water. The genus name, Lophodytes, is apparently derived from the Greek terms for "crest" (lophos) and "diver" (dutes). Given the prominent crest on both genders and their propensity for diving for their prey (usually small fish), it seems an apt name.

Hooded merganser preparing to dive in main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hooded merganser, preparing
Hooded merganser diving into main pond, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hooded merganser, diving
Ripple in main pond after hooded merganser dive, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Hooded merganser, gone

Dragonflies at the Refuge
The standing ponds and wetlands here are great breeding grounds for many species of dragonflies. Most people never get to see the larvae who spend their lives searching for food under water. We have seen these voracious predators, but getting photographs is not practical. Instead, here are photos of some adults who are abundant near and around the bodies of water.

Dragonfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Dragonfly, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Dragonfly on mullein plant, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Dragonfly on mullein plant
Dragonfly (flame skimmer?), Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Dragonfly (flame skimmer?)

A glimpse at our past:
Chickadees, original artwork by Edmund J Sawyer
Edmund J Sawyer

Original artwork by father of Refuge co-founder
Edmund J. Sawyer was a renowned naturalist and artist who spent much of his life observing and making sketches and portraits of the wildlife he encountered. He was also the father of Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, the co-founder of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, and inspired her to become a naturalist and artist in her own right. Although Edmund died many years ago, he did get a chance to visit the Refuge to see the wonderful work his daughter was doing. We pay tribute to this remarkable and talented man by sharing one of his original pieces, this lovely watercolor of chickadees.

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

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


End the use of wild animal acts at the Big E! (Compassion Works International): No wildlife should be kept in captivity to 'entertain' people. People are often unaware of just what it takes to get these animals to 'perform': starvation and physical violence are sometimes used, particularly with animals who are dangerous. Please sign and share this petition urging Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO of The Big E, to stop imprisoning and using wild animals for the amusement of people:

Bald eagle,

Fight for the Endangered Species Act (Centre for Biological Diversity): The Endangered Species Act, although not perfect, is the only law addressing the extinction of wildlife as a result of human activity. The current government would like to dismantle or greatly reduce the effectiveness of this law. Please sign and share this petition urging your Congressional representatives to keep the Act intact:


Stop the trophy hunt of Alaska's wolves and bears (Centre for Biological Diversity): Killing animals for 'sport' is morally repugnant. Hunters often claim that they are killing wildlife 'for their own good'. As illogical as such arguments are, hunting in quest of trophies puts paid to the lie of such claims. Please sign and share this petition to urge our government to put an end to this barbaric practice:

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
  • Dave Sauder, photo contributor

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