Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge
Northeast Region

Wildlife & Habitat


There are four main communities of plants at Trustom Pond NWR:

  1. Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) where widgeon grass and sago pondweed dominate the aquatic vegetation of Trustom Pond.
  2. Grasslands where little bluestem and big bluestem were planted to convert former hayfields and crop lands (corn and potato).
  3. Shrublands that are dominated by shadbush, northern arrowwood, and bayberry.
  4. Forests that are dominated mainly by red maple and black oak.

Invasive Plants
Invasive species have several strongholds on the refuge. Phragmites is found around much of the edge of Trustom Pond; autumn olive is found on the edges of most fields; honeysuckle are found on the edges of shrublands and forest; and Asian bittersweet is found along hedgerows adjacent to fields. For more information on invasive species and control efforts on our refuges, please click on Invasive Species: Partnering with Landowners to Control the Spread of Invasive Plants on the Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Threatened and Endangered Species

Piping plover is the only federally-listed species breeding on Trustom Pond Refuge. Other endangered species use the refuge during migration, like the roseate tern (Sterna dougalli), and the de-listed peregrine falcon and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Least tern (Sterna antillarium), a State-listed species (threatened), has also benefitted from and responded favorably to strategies to protect nesting piping plover.


Trustom Pond is well known in southern New England as a premiere migrating and wintering spot for waterfowl. It is one of the few coastal ponds in Rhode Island where minimal public use near the pond offers an undisturbed resting area for waterfowl. For its size, the pond attracts a significant diversity of waterfowl, some species in very large numbers.

Other than piping plover and least tern, many shorebird species also benefit from the seasonal closure of Moonstone Beach, particularly during fall migration.

Mute Swans
Mute swans are a non-native, invasive species of waterfowl introduced from Europe in the late 1800’s. This species is very aggressive during nesting season, and will kill the young of other waterfowl nesting nearby. For more information on Mute Swans in Rhode Island, plesae click on the link to the following Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management Fact Sheet: Mute Swan: An Invasive Species And Its Management In Rhode Island, By: Charles C. Allin, Pr. Wildlife Biologist.

Neotropical Migrants
The red maple swamp is important nesting habitat for wood thrush, veery, northern water thrush, Canada warbler, and a variety of other Neotropical species.

For additional information about the birds on our refuges, please go to our Birding Resources and Plover Program pages in the Quick Links drop-down menu above.


A study in 1998 found nine species of small mammals on the refuge. The most abundant species was the masked shrew, followed by the short tailed shrew, red-backed vole, meadow vole, meadow jumping mouse, star- nosed vole, water shrew, and smoky shrew. Large mammals include the usual common species: deer, fox, raccoon, mink, coyote, cottontail rabbit, woodchuck, and skunk.


It is important to recognize the ecology of fish in Trustom and Card’s Ponds has changed dramatically over the years with the reduction in breaching that has occurred. The large populations of smelt, oysters, white perch, and alewife that supported a commercial industry are no longer there. Some white perch, alewife, and flounder will use Trustom Pond if breaching coincides with their runs. Other species in Trustom Pond include Atlantic silver-sides, mummichogs, sheepshead minnows, banded killifish, striped killifish, herring, mullet, and pipefish.


A study to determine the presence of northeastern beach tiger beetle occurred in 1996. No northeastern tiger beetles were found, but two other species of beach tiger beetle were found on the refuge. Since 1993, several tick surveys have been done in the forested uplands of the refuge to document the presence of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease. One survey showed that Trustom Pond had the second highest density of deer ticks in the state. In July 2008, refuge staff and volunteers participated in the annual butterfly count organized by the National Audubon Society. We surveyed the Ninigret salt pond and headquarters units and volunteers surveyed Trustom Pond fields and along Moonstone Beach Rd and beach. Notable finds include the variegated fritillary at Ninigret and Baltimore checkerspots at Sachuest. The list of species found at Trustom Pond NWR included Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Cabbage White, Clouded Sulphur, Orange Sulphur, American Copper, Striped Hairstreak, Pearl Crescent, Red Admiral, American Lady, Common Buckeye, Appalachian Brown, Little Wood Satyr, Common Wood Nymph, Monarch, Silver-spotted Skipper, Little Glassywing, and Dun Skipper..

Deer tick surveys indicate that Trustom Pond NWR has a high number of deer and is a hotspot for ticks carrying Lyme disease. Always check for ticks after a hike.

Reptiles and Amphibians

Two studies of reptiles and amphibians on Trustom Pond Refuge have been done (Johnson 1994; Paton, et al. 1998). Johnson found 11 species of amphibians and 5 species of reptiles. Paton, et al. found 10 species of amphibian and 4 species of reptiles. Species richness results were identical in the two studies. An interesting result of the Paton study is that Trustom Pond Refuge has some of the largest populations of amphibians documented in Rhode Island, including four-toed salamander, spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), and red-spotted newt (Notophthalumus v. viridescens).

Last updated: January 10, 2012