The most noticeable management technique on the refuge is the careful manipulation of water levels in the moist-soil management units or “pools”. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has 14 such pools that total over 2,600 acres. Water control structures in these areas allow biologist to lower water levels in the spring to create a mudflat-type environment to attract shorebirds. Biologists also reduce water levels in the pools to concentrate fish for wading birds to feed upon, provide ideal feeding conditions for shorebirds, grow plants as food source for waterfowl, and reduce the number for plants that are low in nutrition for wildlife.
In the fall, water control structures are closed to catch rainwater. The higher water levels provide habitat for waterfowl and other migratory birds. This careful manipulation of water levels is vital in attracting a wide variety of birds and other wildlife to the refuge..
Refuge staff are also heavily involved with managing and protecting the threatened piping plover, a beach nesting shorebird that uses all of the refuge’s barrier islands. Biologist place protective closures around nest, control predation, and intensively monitor these birds from March through August.
Protecting sensitive habitats by closing areas, also helps to protect threatened and endangered species such as the piping plover and Delmarva fox squirrel. Setting aside certain habitat areas to reduce disturbance by people helps preserve the natural heritage that many American have come to love and treasure.
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Over the past 200-300 years, these modern-day descendants of domestic horses have adapted to the hardships of living near the ocean. Prior to the refuge's establishment in 1943, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company purchased the ponies and continues ownership to this day. The Firemen are allowed to graze up to 150 ponies on refuge land through a Special Use Permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.