Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge
Southeast Region
Frequently Asked Questions


American Avocet photo credit: Michael Halminski
  • Are there volunteer opportunities on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge?
    Pea Island uses volunteers in every facet of operations except law enforcement and fire fighting. Local volunteers work in the Visitor Center, conduct interpretive programs, assist with biological work, and help with maintenance. Student interns spend 10-14 weeks during all seasons, gathering work skills and learning what a refuge might offer them for future employment. More recently, the refuge has begun a Workamper Program, where adults live in their own RV's on a site provided by the refuge in return for a minimum of 32 hours per week of work. We are especially interested in Workampers with education/interpretation experience or carpentry or mechanical skills.
  • Why do some rangers wear green uniforms and some wear brown?
    The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) uniform is primarily brown. Pea Island is a small refuge that lies within Cape Hatteras National Seashore. While Pea Island is administered by FWS, Cape Hatteras National Seashore falls under National Park Service (NPS) administration. NPS uniforms are green and gray. Both USFWS and NPS are Interior Department agencies; however, they have different primary purposes. Stated simply, parks are for people; refuges are for wildlife. Both agencies manage wildlife; both offer many public use opportunities. The difference is in priorities. On refuges, wildlife is top priority. The refuge was established to provide habitat for wildlife and to provide compatible wildlife-dependent public use opportunities that don't conflict with providing that wildlife habitat.
  • When and where can we see a sea turtle?
    Healthy sea turtles come ashore only to lay eggs and only during the summer months. Laying usually occurs at night, and the refuge is open to the public only during daylight hours. Pea Island beaches usually have fewer than 10 nests each year. Therefore, it is unlikely that visitors will see a healthy sea turtle on refuge beaches. Occasionally, dead or injured sea turtles wash ashore and can be found on the beach or in the surf.
  • Why is the refuge called Pea Island?
    At one time, a majority of the greater snow goose population wintered on what is now Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge. Historically, these birds foraged in the dunes and along the sound shore. In the dunes, they found a small plant whose tiny pink/lavender flowers matured to form beans that were packed with energy. These "dune peas" provided a predictable food source for the wintering geese: the refuge was literally the "pea island" for snow geese.
  • Why is there constant work on the highway and adjacent land through Pea Island (sand bags, moving sections, bulldozing, plantings, etc.)?
    The ocean, with associated winds and tides, can be an overwhelming force with which to contend. Atlantic storms frequently cause dune blowouts, tidal surges, and blowing sand. These make sections of the road impassable due to flooding and shifting of the dunes. NC Highway 12 is the only road connecting the seven villages that lie south of the refuge on Hatteras Island with their survival needs. Residents of these villages need access for supplies, employment, medical care, etc. The powerlines, associated with NC 12, provide electricity that is also critically needed by these villages. The NC Department of Transportation currently moves sand, drains water, and tries to stabilize dunes in an attempt to keep NC 12 open. We are part of the Outer Banks Task Force which explores long term solutions for transportation.
  • Will there ever be jetties at Oregon Inlet on the north end of the refuge?
    The construction of jetties is just one proposed way to maintain a deep channel in this dynamic inlet. The Department of Interior Coastal Biologists feel that jetties would do more harm than good. Serious concerns about the impacts of jetties range from rapid erosion of the refuge to impacts on fish nursery areas in Pamlico Sound. The issues are complicated and involve a great deal of speculation and data gathering. In short, solutions to the problems at Oregon Inlet and potential impacts of jetty construction are still being evaluated.
Last Updated: 3/20/13