Resource Management


John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is administered by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The mission of the System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

The Refuge’s location along the Atlantic Flyway and within the major metropolitan area of Philadelphia means that it is uniquely positioned. Challenged with the protection of natural resources under the pressure of extensive urban development beyond its borders, the Refuge works to provide both quality habitat and recreation for a large, diverse population.

Invasive Species Management

Invasive plants on the Refuge, including Phragmites, Purple loosestrife, Bush honeysuckle, and Oriental bittersweet, out-compete native plants and, in turn, hurt the animals that rely on native plants for food and shelter. The Refuge’s goal is to remove the non-native plants and protect the biodiversity of our habitats.

The Refuge employs several techniques to control invasive plants including hand pulling and cutting, mowing, herbicides, and biological control. The Refuge relies heavily on volunteers to control invasive plants, through a volunteer group called the Weed Warriors. Their contributions are invaluable to both the Refuge and the ecosystem. For more information about becoming a Weed Warrior, see here
The Northern Snakehead (Channa argus) is another invasive species known to inhabit the waters of the Refuge and Darby Creek. Listed as an injurious species in 2002, the non-native fish from East Asia was first positively identified in Refuge waters in 2012. The Northern Snakehead poses a risk to native populations of fish, turtles, and frogs and the Refuge is working to manage their population. Anglers who catch a Northern Snakehead are required to dispatch the fish or turn it over to Refuge staff. It is against Refuge policy to release a captured snakehead back into refuge waters.

Emergent Wetland Management

The Refuge is home to a roughly 145-acre emergent wetland where the Service manages water levels. Adjusting the water levels throughout the seasons maximizes the benefits for migrating birds, invertebrates, and plant communities. The water level can be lowered to expose mud flats that provide for feeding and resting areas during shorebird migration or raised during waterfowl migration for dabbling and diving ducks. For more information and research regarding the timing of water level changes, please see our Comprehensive Conservation Plan.

A Place of Refuge, Not Rehabilitation

Although John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge prioritizes wildlife and their health, the Refuge does not serve the purpose of wildlife rehabilitation. If you find an injured animal off Refuge property, please contact your local animal rehabilitation facility. In you do not have access to that information, the Refuge can assist with providing contact information of local rehabbers. If you find an injured animal on Refuge property, you may contact the front desk at 215-365-3118. Note the animal’s location and avoid approaching it or attempting to catch it.