Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge

Shorteared owl on refuge sign (USFWS)

The Cape May National Wildlife Refuge was established in January 1989 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service acquired the Refuge's first (90-acre) parcel from The Nature Conservancy in June of that year.

It has grown to more than 11000 acres and ultimately will protect over 21,200 acres of precious wildlife habitat in New Jersey's Cape May Peninsula.

The Refuge's location places it in the Atlantic Flyway and so an important link in the nationwide network of National Wildlife Refuges making it an important habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year as these long- distance flyers travel along the New Jersey coast.

The refuge contains upland forest, forested wetland, saltmarsh, ocean-front beach, maritime forest, and grassland/old field habitats. With a landbase established, the refuge is now entering a phase where various management programs are being developed and implemented: habitat management plans and wildlife surveys are being developed; refuge staff work closely with other biologists studying shorebirds and horseshoe crabs on Delaware Bay; endangered species and beach nesting birds are closely monitored; and public use improvements are being developed as described in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan. Habitat Restoration and public use improvements have also recently been completed at the Two Mile Beach Unit.

Peregrine falcons, found on the Federal List of endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals, use the Refuge's protected habitats and are commonly seen during migration.

The threatened Piping Plover uses Two Mile Beach Unit for feeding and roosting.

New Jersey State-listed species confirmed within the Refuge boundary include ospreys, short-eared owls, barred owls, red-shouldered hawks, grasshopper sparrows, great and little blue herons, red-headed woodpeckers, sedge wrens, yellow-crowned night-herons, northern harriers, black rails, southern gray tree frogs, Eastern tiger and mud salamanders, corn snakes and northern pine snakes.

Swamp pink, which is a unique lily family member which is on the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Plants and Animals, also occurs on the Refuge, as do 34 State-listed plant species.

Existing foot trails through the Refuge's varied habitats provide excellent opportunities for bird watching, photography and environmental education, and the Cape May Peninsula has been described as one of the ten top birding spots in North America.

There are four maintained trails on the Refuge, two trails in the Delaware Bay Division), one at the Two Mile Beach Unit and one in the Great Cedar Swamp Division.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge welcomes volunteers. Because we continue to establish towns, cities and recreation sites in areas that were once natural habitats, wildlife needs our help more than ever to survive. Volunteer greeters for the visitor contact station at the Two Mile Beach Unit. Individuals interested in volunteering are welcome to contact Refuge headquarters at 609-463-0994 any weekday from 8:00 am – 4:30 pm.