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.
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-listed American oystercatcher, black skimmer, red knot, dunlin, and many other shorebird species.
Throughout the refuge, former agriculture fields have been converted to warm season grasses for the benefit of migrating songbirds through shrub seed planting projects.
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 and accept donations. Ultimately the refuge will protect over 21,200 acres of precious wildlife habitat in New Jersey's Cape May Peninsula. The 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.
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The federally-threatened piping plover is a small, stocky shorebird resembling a sandpiper. They use wide, flat, open, sandy beaches with very little grass or other vegetation. Nesting territories often include small creeks or wetlands. The piping plover breeds on the northern Great Plains, in the Great Lakes, and along the Atlantic coast (Newfoundland to North Carolina); and winters on the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts from North Carolina to Mexico, and in the Bahamas West Indies.