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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"They seemed to be almost like little folk from some other planet, whose language we could not yet quite understand." – Grey Owl

The Bittersweet Story of Chopper

Chopper and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo
Chopper the beaver kitten was born in spring. He was fully furred with his eyes open. On a floor of poplar chips inside the lodge his parents had built, he played, nibbled poplar leaves and nursed rich beaver milk.

At two weeks of age, Chopper came outside to explore. It was evening and the sun had set. He hid under a log which hung over the water, and listened. He heard footsteps, then the slap of his father's tail warning that danger was near. Everyone in the beaver family dived into the lodge – all except Chopper. He crouched hidden under his log. He watched a giant shape dig into the lodge roof. He heard heavy pounding. Then the giant hurried away. Next, a noise like thunder sent sticks and water flying. Chopper was whirled through the air and dropped among bushes far up the bank. He whimpered, but his mother did not come. He set out to look for her.

Chopper walked far, trudging with determination on his webbed hind feet and pigeon-toed front feet. His tail hurt where it dragged on the ground. He grew hungry and weak. Still he kept on. He did not know that his mother and father had been killed when the farmer dynamited the lodge. He did not know that he would no longer wrestle and play tag with his brothers and sisters. He did not know that he had no family left.

Two boys found Chopper wandering. They took him to a humane society shelter, where a woman promised to take care of him. She took him home. There he drank from a bottle, swam in the bathtub and tumbled on the floor with four human children, three cats and two dogs. These people loved Chopper. They wanted to keep him, but they knew that he should be free. When Chopper was two and a half months old, they brought him to Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, where wild beavers live in a big wilderness pond.

Chopper and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, photo by Joe Tobin
From a den in the cellar, Chopper could travel up a wide board to a hole in the living room floor; or, going the other way, out through a tunnel to the beaver pond. Chopper lived for nearly two years in the house with people, going and coming as he pleased. He endeared himself to many. He had a furry face full of childish eagerness. He was enthusiastic about food and play. And, at bedtime, after a day of mischief and fun, he came to his human foster parents for love.
Chopper and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge photo

It was hard for those who knew Chopper to face the fact that beavers like Chopper could be trapped and killed to make fur coats. They vowed to get rid of trapping forever.

Unfortunately, Chopper's story does not have a happy ending. He would widely explore areas along the various streams that coursed outside the Refuge. One day, he ended up in a lake a few miles away. Seeing a group of people in a rowboat and being unafraid of people, he eagerly swam to them and tried to climb inside the boat for company. The people, however, thought he was 'attacking' them and killed him. Although this was a heart-wrenching end to the life of such a dear and trusting individual, what we must learn from this sad experience is that no wild animal should ever be tamed for any reason. If an individual is deemed to be in need of human help, it needs to be provided in a way that ensures the 'wildness' of the individual is maintained. The best defense wildlife have against being harmed by people is their innate wariness and fear of them. We did not know better at the time, but will strive to never let any others experience the same fate as Chopper.

Beavers Turn Wilderness...Into Happiness

The beaver's history is one of sadness, ever since the white man came to this country. Though Indians had killed beavers for warmth and food, the white man made fur coats fashionable and killed beavers to get money. Millions of beavers were trapped in cruel leghold traps, until very few beavers were left.

Now beavers are being brought back in some places. Canada honors the beaver as a national symbol. Yet beavers are still trapped and their skins sold for money. Only a few people know what wonderful friends beavers could be, or what great good their dams do along streams, or how they regulate their own numbers so that not too many will live in any one place.

We must protect the beaver (as well as all wildlife) so that they can once more care for the streams of North America by saving water during rainy seasons so there will be plenty in time of drought. We should let their lodges once more adorn waterways and their dams create habitat for other creatures, including ourselves. We may then see mother beavers clasp their babies in their arms and croon to them, and young beavers wrestle and dive in the coolness of forest pools. We may hear beavers murmur happy songs in their snug winter lodges, as they used to do.

"I hope and half believe that before many years every brook that is born on a great watershed will, as it goes swiftly, merrily singing down the slopes toward the sea, pass through and be steadied in a poetic pond that is made and will be maintained by our patient, persistent, faithful friend the beaver." – Enos A. Mills

You Can Help

The Beaver Defenders, when it was active, had a pledge, "They shall never be trapped anymore". Although no longer a separate entity of the Refuge, the pledge still holds true and should encompass all animals who are trapped for their fur. You can help make this pledge come true for these animals: