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 2019
Beaver eating yellow water lily; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver eating lily

We are pleased to report that we have received permission to begin construction of our new headquarters, have hired a builder and demolition began in late September! This is a sad occasion because of the numerous wonderful memories attached to the cabin. But, we look forward to the new building to provide better office space and living quarters for our onsite manager, a critical person in keeping the Refuge and its inhabitants safe from harm, such as the beaver shown here, peacefully eating a lily in the main pond a few meters from headquarters. Despite not yet having reached our goal for the funds needed, we felt that we had to start in order to get the outer part of the building done before winter sets in. If you have not already contributed to this important project, we urge you to do so now. We are still in need of funds to ensure that the construction continues without interruptions. If you have already donated, we thank you for your help!

Speaking of an onsite manager for the Refuge, after providing us with exceptional service, Michael sadly had to leave us at the end of August. As a result, we are once again in need of a manager. This is a rewarding and challenging position for a responsible and self-motivated individual who is deeply interested in nature and wildlife and maintaining land as protected natural habitat. Preference will be for a person who is at least a vegetarian and who has practical experience with wildlife or some academic training so that they are knowledgeable about wildlife in general. The manager lives onsite in provided, free accommodations (soon to be in our new headquarters building), including utilities. The diversity of animals and plants provides a rich visual treat for wildlife enthusiasts. The voices of coyotes, eagles, foxes, frogs, owls and many more can be heard throughout the day and evening..

News items
Beaver in main pond; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver at Refuge

New report out on how to deal with beavers humanely
Because there were concerns about beavers and their impact in Chesterfield, New Jersey, the Chesterfield Environmental Commission worked to develop a plan that would mitigate negative impacts while not harming the beavers. Nancy Scarafile was kind enough to provide us with a copy of the published plan which you can see through this link. We hope that others will similarly develop non-lethal methods of 'control', particularly methods that allow both species to live in reasonable harmony. After all, the habitat belongs to the beavers as much as it does to the people. Refuge president Dr Nedim Buyukmihci was an invited editor for the plan. The Refuge also provides advice on humane methods of dealing with beaver-human conflicts.

Atlantic County Utilities Authority logo
Volunteers cleaning up trash; photo by Janet Romano
Trash removal
Janet Romano

Atlantic County Utilities Authority assists Refuge in trash removal
After student volunteers had collected several tons of trash dumped on part of the Refuge (see Aug Beaver Tales), we had the daunting task of disposing of the items that were not recyclable. When we asked the local authority, Atlantic County Utilities Authority (ACUA), about how we might do this economically, representatives Amy Cook-Menzel (already a Refuge supporter) and Rebecca Turygan graciously arranged to have a refuse container delivered to the site. Volunteers and several of our Trustees then spent a Saturday morning doing the back-breaking work of loading it with bricks, concrete blocks, lumber, furniture, car parts and other discarded items. The ACUA removed the filled container and the site is now clean. We are grateful to the ACUA and volunteers for their generosity in facilitating this important service to the Refuge and community at large, saving the Refuge hundreds of dollars in the process. We hope that those who were illegally dumping their trash at the Refuge will have a change of heart and act responsibly in the future.

Beaver; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Unexpected Wildlife 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.

Beaver dam; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Beaver dam at UWR
Beavers on the coast are helping salmon bounce back. Here's how
Starre Vartan reports on how beaver dams have helped the threatened Chinook salmon.

Beaver books, NCPR
Beaver books
Chewing over three books about beavers
Betsy Kepes and Todd Moe discuss three books about beavers in this podcast. Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, our co-founder, assisted in the writing of Beaversprite.

Beaver, Nebraska Game and Parks/Nebraskaland Magazine
Nebraska Game and Parks/Nebraskaland Magazine
Tool-sharpening dam builders
Justin Haag reports on the amazing teeth of the beaver and how these natural 'tools' facilitate the immense contribution of beavers to the ecosystem.

Ben Goldfarb, Green Dreamer Podcast
Ben Goldfarb
Green Dreamer Podcast
The vital role of beavers in enriching and strengthening our ecosystems
In this podcast, Kamea Chayne interviews Ben Goldfarb about the importance of beavers. The beaver story is really about the hidden ecological changes that have transformed North America; it's about these rodents that were hugely responsible for shaping the landscape that we occupy.

Campaigns for wildlife in New Jersey
Bear cub, APLNJ
American black bear cub

Bear hunting in New Jersey starts on October 14th

Hunting bears is cruel and inflicts substantial suffering on these sentient animals. Hunters can bait and shoot all bears including mothers and their cubs; incredibly, bows and arrows and muzzleloader guns are allowed, weapons that are not only archaic, but inflict the most suffering and often result in wounded animals escaping only to suffer a lingering death. Not only is this brutal treatment of bears unacceptable, there are alternative, humane and effective methods that can be adopted to address human-bear conflicts.

Please show your support for these iconic and majestic animals:

ATTEND a bear hunt protest organized by APLNJ (Animal Protection League of NJ)
Date: 19 October
Time: 12 PM - 2 PM
Location: Route 36, Middletown, NJ, between Wilson Ave and Church St, beneath APLNJ's bear billboard
(For more details:

SUPPORT bear hunt vigils that are being held from October 14-19
Each day quiet vigils, to show reverence for bears who have lost their lives, will be held at Whittingham weigh station. Times may change, so please contact Doreen Frega ( for details.
LOCATION: Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, 150 Fredon Springdale Road, Fredon, NJ (Coordinates: 41°01'26.1"N 74°47'40.1"W)

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
@GovMurphy please stop bear hunting on all lands in New Jersey #savenjbears
@GovMurphy promised to cancel the #bearhunt

Fox killing,
Foxes killed in contest

Arizona bans wildlife killing contests, New Jersey still allows

Arizona has banned organized wildlife killing contests where people try to kill the most bobcats, coyotes, foxes and other animals for prizes.

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge commends the Arizona Governor's Regulatory Review Council for unanimously approving this ban. Wildlife killing contests are cruel and efforts to ban them are increasing. Already, New Mexico and Vermont have banned coyote killing contests and several other states are reportedly considering similar rules or legislation.

Sadly, these barbaric wildlife killing contests are still taking place in New Jersey. Please sign and share the petition calling for an end to them:

APLNJ alert

Still need New Jersey residents to call Governor Murphy about the deer killing bill

Even if you have already done so, please call Governor Murphy at 609-292-6000 and ask him to VETO deer killing bill S2419/A3242.

Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is supporting Animal Protection League of NJ with this campaign. We have learned that S2419/A3242 has gone back to the Assembly for another vote and may soon end up on the Governor's desk for his signature. We need pre-emptive action. It is important that you contact the Governor now to let him know that you want this bill vetoed if it comes before him. In addition to phoning him, you can send a Tweet: @GovMurphy #SaveNJWildlife

This Bill expands the cruel and unethical methods typically used by hunters. It expands killing and wounding methods for deer and other wildlife including killing animals directly over bait at point blank range, killing deer any time of day or night, shooting deer from moving vehicles and jacklighting (stunning deer with strong lights).

It also includes the "Multi-Species Depredation" Permit - permits issued by the Division of Fish and Wildlife that "authorize agents of the owner or lessee, to kill any animal of a species listed in the permit which is on the land and known to cause crop damage". This could apply to a variety of species.

Snapshots of life at the Refuge
Black vulture and northern red-bellied turtle; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Black vulture & northern red-bellied turtle
Northern red-bellied turtle preparing nest; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Northern red-bellied turtle

Northern red-bellied turtle prepares nest while black vulture watches
This female northern red-bellied turtle chose the driveway near the old barn and cabin to dig her nest for her eggs. Choosing a trail or similar path seems to be common amongst some of the aquatic turtles at the Refuge. If you look very closely in the second photo, you may see a black vulture perched on the lower eave of the barn to the left. She appeared to be watching the turtle's progress (she did not try to get the eggs). Although we did not see the hatchlings emerge and head off to the main pond, they would have done so long before we began demolition of the cabin.

Eastern painted turtle on eastern mud turtle; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern painted turtle
eastern mud turtle

Eastern painted turtle getting closer to the sun
In the summer, the aquatic turtles at the Refuge spend a lot of time basking in the sunshine on logs in the main pond. We sometimes see those of the same species perched on top of each other, perhaps to get a better venue. Unusually, we saw this young eastern painted turtle stretched out on top of an eastern mud turtle. You can see from the position of one hind leg that the painted turtle was quite relaxed.

Eastern amberwing on lily pad in main pond; photo by Leor Veleanu
Eastern amberwing
Leor Veleanu

Eastern amberwing resting on lily pad in main pond
Dragonflies are everywhere at the Refuge. Although we rarely see the daunting (to their prey) larval stage, we are regularly treated to the visual splendor and aerial skills of the colorful adults. There are literally thousands of species of dragonflies worldwide. Perhaps as many as a couple dozen have been identified in New Jersey. We are no experts on the various species, but value them all, like this striking eastern amberwing resting on a lily pad in the main pond and photographed by Trustee Leor Veleanu. The configuration of the abdomen with the yellow and brown stripes is believed to deter predators by mimicking wasps.

Eastern tent caterpillar nest; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Eastern tent caterpillar nest

Eastern tent caterpillar moths
Eastern tent caterpillars are moths whose larvae form communal nests ('tents') among the branches of trees. They venture from these nests several times a day to feed on the leaves and then return to the safety of their nests. The photo shows the typical nest of one of these communal groups. Although considered 'pests' by many people, these insects are a vital part of a natural and thriving ecosystem.

American bullfrog; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
American bullfrog
American bullfrog; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
American bullfrog

American bullfrog in swampy area along a trail
The American bullfrog is the largest frog or amphibian at the Refuge, but not necessarily the loudest. This individual was perched on a fallen tree in a swampy area along one of the trails. After maneuvering around on the log to watch us, he finally decided that discretion was called for despite our keeping our distance. After jumping into the water and 'disappearing' for a few moments, he peered out at us to see if the danger had passed.

White-tailed deer foraging in main pond; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
White-tailed deer
White-tailed deer foraging in main pond; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
White-tailed deer

White-tailed deer dining on lily pads
We have a vibrant white-tailed deer population at the Refuge. It is not uncommon to see them even near the headquarters area, foraging in the lush vegetation nearby. This doe was seen eating lily pads near the shore of the main pond. She would go back and forth between wading in the water for the lilies, to nibbling on other plants further away from the shore. We hope that our Refuge will become a beacon of safe harbor for these lovely, gentle creatures when the hunting 'season' for them starts in the next several weeks. We will be sending out a call for volunteers to patrol the Refuge, but you do not have to wait to let us know you will help: contact us via telephone (856.697.3541) or E-mail ( so that we may know to contact you directly when we are ready to prepare a patrol schedule.

Trumpet vine with dragonfly; photo by Leor Veleanu
Trumpet vine with dragonfly
Leor Veleanu
Ruby-throated hummingbird; photo by Leor Veleanu
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Leor Veleanu

Female ruby-throated hummingbird and dragonfly near headquarters
This female ruby-throated hummingbird rested long enough for Trustee Leor Veleanu to get this nice photo. We usually just see a body with blurred wings on either side, while the individual feasts, such as on the fresh nectar of the trumpet vine, a common plant found here. The trumpet vine produces a deep, trumpet-shaped flower for which a hummingbird's long, narrow bill is well-suited. As with bees and other 'pollinators', there is symbiosis at play: the hummingbird gets a meal and the plant gets cross-pollinated. The other photo shows the plant photographed by Leor on the same day, but with a dragonfly perched on one of the flowers.

Black rat snake; photo by Dave Sauder
Black rat snake
Dave Sauder
Black rat snake; photo by Dave Sauder
Black rat snake
Dave Sauder
Black rat snake; photo by Dave Sauder
Black rat snake
Dave Sauder

Black rat snake and Trustee meet in the road
While Trustee Dave Sauder was giving a tour of the Refuge to a member of the public, a black rat snake several feet long came out of the brush to cross a lane. His (the snake's) initial reaction was to use his muscles to cause his body to become kinked, presumably an effort to appear more threatening. When Dave got closer to get a better look, the snake then decided that 'hiding' in plain sight might be a better strategy and threw himself into a mass of coils with his head hidden from view until the 'danger' had passed. If you look closely, you may see the healing or healed cut on his right side a short distance from his head. Black rat snakes are completely harmless to people. Although they may bite if threatened, the bites are less painful than being scratched by the thorns of brambles.

Shortbristle horned beaksedge; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Shortbristle horned beaksedge
Pincushion moss; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Pincushion moss
Evergreen azalea; photo by Leor Veleanu
Evergreen azalea
Leor Veleanu
Red raspberry slime; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Red raspberry slime

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.

Red sorrel; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Red sorrel
Rose campion; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Rose campion
Swamp azalea; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Swamp azalea
Adam's needle and thread; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Adam's needle and thread

A glimpse at our past
Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci in Refuge office, 1994; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
HSB, 1994
Remington Rand typewriter; Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Remington Rand typewriter

Remembering Hope and her typewriting
Our co-founder, Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, learned to type on an 'unsophisticated' manual typewriter early in life. When she started writing on behalf of the Refuge and for periodicals such as The AV, she continued to use manual models such as the old Remington Rand pictured here (which we think might be the first one she had) and then an Adler as seen in the photo of Hope in her office in 1994. Despite the considerable work involved -- 'pounding' the keys and the constant use of the carriage return lever -- she was able to type around 90 words per minute with surprising accuracy. Bear in mind that she did not have the benefit of being able to cover her mistakes with liquid 'paper' or tape transfers. She was a prolific writer, putting to paper her experiences being with and learning about nature.

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

Young beavers swimming; sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Young beavers swimming, 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.

Bighorn sheep; sketch by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Refuge co-founder and artist
Bighorn sheep, 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, 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.

Bald eagle,
Bald eagle

US Endangered Species Act and wildlife are in peril: Sweeping changes to the way the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is enforced will put at risk the future of many wildlife species. The ESA is our country's most effective law for saving wildlife from extinction.

The changes remove automatic protections for threatened species and allow economic factors to be considered when deciding if a species should be listed as endangered or threatened. They also make it easier for companies to build roads, pipelines, mines and other industrial projects in critical habitat areas that are essential to the survival of species at risk.

This rolling back of protection comes at a critical time for wildlife as a United Nations report warned in May (2019) that more than 1 million animal and plant species globally face extinction as a result of human development, climate change and other threats. The Trump administration should be protecting the Endangered Species Act, not working to undermine it.

What you can do:

  1. Please sign and share the petition organized by the Center for Biological Diversity to save this crucial law:
  2. Write to your federal legislators and urge them to do what they can to stop this incredible assault on our wildlife and environment. Click here for contact information for your legislators.

Bear on motor scooter in Vietnam, Animals Asia
Bear in Vietnam
Animals Asia

Vietnam continues to allow wild animals in circuses: Although there is a global move to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, Vietnam still allows this barbaric practice. Further, an investigation by Animals Asia has uncovered the shocking abuse of these animals, including many endangered species such as elephants, moon bears and orangutans, in Vietnamese circuses.

Vietnam should join with the many other countries that have banned the use of wildlife in circuses.

Please sign and share this petition:

Contact us

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