Wildlife & Habitat

Featured Wildlife & Habitat

  • Chincoteague Ponies

    Chincoteague ponies - Middleton Evans.

    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.

    Learn more about the Chincoteague ponies.

  • Piping Plover

    Piping plover

    In 1985, the Atlantic coast piping plover was listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act (Federal Register 1985). Despite a population increase from 790 plover pairs in 1986 to 1,890 plover pairs in 2007, degradation of habitat, human disturbance, and intensified predation pressure continue to be limiting factors for piping plovers and other beach dependent birds on the Atlantic seaboard. Limiting factors have reduced the amount of optimal breeding habitat available and caused disturbance, which contribute to poor reproductive success of piping plovers and other beach nesting species. For example, construction of resorts, homes, and coastal engineering such as jetties and seawalls reduced piping plover nesting. Peak beach visitation occurs from April to September and coincides with breeding of the beach nesting piping plover.

    Learn more about piping plovers.

  • Delmarva Fox Squirrel

    DFS Promo creditDNREC 150x118

    Beginning in spring, visitors to the Refuge are often treated to delightful views of Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels (Sciurus niger cinereus) as they root around on the ground for tempting truffle treats (underground fungi that grows on tree roots). Please drive with caution while you enjoy the Refuge as the squirrel often seeks out food along the roadsides, especially along Beach Road from the fee booths and the Bateman Center. We encourage you to slow down not only for the reward of spotting one of these playful animals, but also to help us protect the squirrel from vehicle collisions.

    Learn more about the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel.

  • Recent Bird Sightings

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    Because of its position on the Atlantic Flyway, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is an ideal place for birds to rest, feed, nest, or winter. This makes the refuge a great place for bird watching year round. To inspire your next birding adventure, our Recent Bird Sighting List shows refuge-wide data from eBird Trail Tracker.

    Don't forget to download the refuge bird checklist for your trip! (pdf 3.71MB)

    Learn More
  • Habitats

    Maritime forest - John White.

    Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has a diversity of habitats, ranging from the beach and dunes to the vast salt marshes to the west of the islands. Check out our habitats page to see pictures and learn more.

    Habitats at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge