Wildlife & Habitat

  • Garter Snake

    Garter snake - USFWS.

    Garter snakes are one of the more common snakes found on Long Island, usually near moist areas such as marshes or forest edges. Active during the day and in the evening, they can usually be found chasing prey species such as frogs, earthworms, small fish and/or tadpoles. In winter, garter snakes hibernate under large rocks or inside burrows made by different animals. If attacked, a garter snake will release a bad-smelling odor.

  • Black Duck

    Black duck - USFWS.

    The Cow Neck Complex (see description in wetland habitat section) is known for its high concentration of black ducks. Waterfowl numbers are highest in the colder months, and decline in the warmer months. Black ducks are by far the predominant waterfowl species using the refuge. The area is considered to be regionally significant for black ducks, both as breeding and wintering habitat; wintering black duck densities on and near the refuge are among the highest for Long Island. Because of those factors, the Peconic Estuary Program has tentatively identified the Cow Neck Complex as significant habitat for black duck. Other common waterfowl species include bufflehead, Canada goose, red-breasted merganser, and mallard.

  • Grasslands

    Grasslands - USFWS.

    The refuge preserves and maintains one of the best examples of maritime grassland remaining on Long Island. The grassland is dominated by little bluestem, with lesser amounts of Indian grass, poverty grass, and prickly pear cactus. The tidal wetlands provide habitat important for black ducks and a host of other waterbirds. Management activities are geared toward maintaining native grassland, controlling invasive species, and protecting habitat.

    Maritime grasslands are a globally rare plant community found on outwash plains near oceans or bays. Fewer than 100 maritime grasslands are found worldwide. Since 1989, the State-listed coast flatsedge and bushy rockrose have been recorded at the refuge. Historically, several other listed plants associated with maritime grasslands were known there. The rarity of the maritime grassland habitat type on Long Island is due partly to the rapidity which the vegetation succeeds into maritime shrubland and the absence of disturbance, e.g. fire, to reduce the spread of woody vegetation.

  • Wetlands

    Salt marsh - USFWS.

    Conscience Point is part of a unique wetland network: the Sebonac Creek/West Neck/Scallop Pond System or, in local vernacular, the Cow Neck Complex. That system encompasses about 300 acres of open water, salt marsh, irregularly exposed tidal flats, and aquatic beds. The Cow Neck Complex includes large, privately owned wetlands and wetlands owned by The Nature Conservancy.

    The extensive salt and brackish tidal marshes include a number of tidal creeks, ponds and coves. The marshes characteristically comprise low and high marsh areas dominated by smooth cordgrass and saltmeadow cordgrass, respectively, with various admixtures of glasswort, spikegrass, black grass, and sea lavender, among others. Their upland shrubby edges often are dominated by groundselbush, marsh elder and bayberry, grading into upland forest of red maple and white oak.