Cape May National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region
24 Kimbles Beach Road
Cape May Court House, NJ
(609) 463-0994


Invasive phramites. Credit: Heidi Hanlon/USFWS
Invasive phramites. Credit: Heidi Hanlon/USFWS

Staff, volunteers, and Friends of Cape May National Wildlife Refuge are constantly working with others to conserve, protect, and enhance wildlife habitat for the continuing benefit of wildlife and the American people. Habitat management activities on the refuge include invasive species control, threatened and endangered species management, habitat restoration, and land acquisition.

Invasive Species Control

Invasive species requiring control on the refuge (mostly exotics not native to the New Jersey landscape) include Japanese honeysuckle, European bittersweet, autumn olive, multiflora rose, and phragmites. These and other invasive species impact native species directly by displacing or killing individuals, destroying habitats, and disrupting ecological communities.

The refuge uses a variety of methods to manage invasive plant species such as chemical spraying, burning, mowing, and even pulling by hand.

Threatened and Endangered Species

Along the highly developed South Jersey coastline, the 0.7 mile-long beachfront of the refuge’s Two Mile Beach Unit is essential habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

This beachfront is closed to public access April 1 to September 30 each year to provide undisturbed areas for birds to nest, feed, roost, or migrate through, such as the federally threatened piping plover, the State endangered least tern, American oystercatcher, black skimmer, red knot, dunlin, and many other shorebird species.

Habitat Restoration

Throughout the refuge, former agriculture fields have been converted to warm season grasses for the benefit of migrating songbirds. 

In partnership with the USDA Plant Material Center and the assistance of refuge volunteers, the refuge began a shrub seed planting project in two small fields to provide food sources for berry- and insect-eating birds. Thirteen pounds of shrub seed were spread out among 25 acres using a no-till seed drill.  Shrub species planted include: spicebush, staghorn sumac, shadblow serviceberry, black chokeberry, winterberry holly, sweet pepperbush, and black-eyed susan. Due to the limited amount of seed needed to cover a broad area, the shrub seed was grouped (according to size and shape) with a “carrier” seed in order to be dispersed. Carriers included soybeans, fish food, flax, and clover.

Converted agriculture field providing food sources for migratory songbirds.Credit: Heidi Hanlon/USFWS
Converted agriculture field providing food sources for migratory songbirds.  Photo Credit: Heidi Hanlon/USFWS

Currently the fields are being surveyed for breeding birds and once the shrubs mature, migratory bird surveys will be conducted to assess the shrub habitat value. This shrub habitat has the potential to help support a vast number of songbirds migrating through the Cape May peninsula.

Land Acquisition

Cape May National 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. Since then the Refuge has grown to more than 11,000 acres as the Service continues to buy land from willing sellers. Ultimately the Refuge will protect over 21,200 acres of precious wildlife habitat in New Jersey's Cape May Peninsula. Cape May National Wildlife Refuge's key location in the Atlantic Flyway makes it an important link in the vast nationwide network of National Wildlife Refuges administered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It will ensure availability of important habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory birds each year as these long-distance flyers travel along the New Jersey coast.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge final CCP cover.
Front cover of refuge CCP

Comprehensive Conservation Planning

In tune with public support for improving conditions on National Wildlife Refuges, we are dedicated to completing a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) for each refuge in the Northeast Region by 2012. A CCP provides management direction for a refuge for 15 years by documenting desired future conditions and management actions needed to achieve them; serving as a guide to improve refuge habitat and infrastructure for wildlife conservation and refuge visitors.

Cape May National Wildlife Refuge completed the CCP process in 2004. To view our final CCP, please visit the Refuge Planning Web site.

Last updated: December 16, 2009