Wildlife & Habitat

Mashpee National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1995 to preserve and protect natural resources associated with the Waquoit Bay area for the protection of waterfowl and wildlife. Located in the towns of Mashpee and Falmouth, this refuge will total 5,871 acres when complete, only a small percentage of which will be owned by the Fish and Wildlife Service (335 acres). Managed through a unique partnership among nine Federal, State and private conservation groups, this Cape Cod refuge preserves thousands of acres of magnificent salt marshes, cranberry bogs, Atlantic white cedar swamps, freshwater marshes, rivers and vernal pools.

  • New England Cottontail

    New England Cottontail

    The New England cottontail is the subject of research and habitat management in New York and the New England states. Halting the decline of scrub and brushland habitat is paramount, as is identifying potential habitat free of competing eastern cottontail to which New England cottontails could be restored. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shares the concern for the future of New England's only native cottontail. Working together, states and federal agencies may help improve the chances of survival for the New England cottontail. Refuge staff has been working with partners on the refuge to learn more about the local population.

    Learn more about the New England cottontail.
    Article: Mashpee Collaborative Works to Restore Rabbit, Human Habitats (pdf)
    Article: When Rabbits Have Trouble Multiplying

  • American Eel

    Service employee holding American eel - USFWS.

    The American eel uses ocean currents to move from its natal waters, perhaps using cues from the currents or salinity to time its metamorphoses. Having survived at least one ice age, American eel seems to be a flexible species well-equipped to withstand the short- and long-term cycles and fluctuations inherent in ocean dynamics.

    American eels swim up freshwater streams to mature, others remain and mature in both estuarine and marine waters, and still others move between habitats. Like many other species, American eels no longer have access to much of their historical habitat because of dams and other obstructions in rivers. These eels, particularly silver females migrating downstream, also die in the turbines of hydropower plants. Contaminants, too, may impair eels, may most likely affect the eels during their long ocean migration.

  • Eastern Towhee

    Eastern towhee

    The Eastern towhee can be spotted in early successional habitats such as on the Mashpee Refuge. They are grouped into the “songbird” category and are infamous for their song “Drink your teeeaaaaa”. They can be heard (and sometimes seen) spring through early fall during their arrival and departure migration, and nesting periods. Adult males have a blackish hood, upperparts, and tail, with white edges to tertials and flight feathers, and white at base of primaries. Flanks are reddish orange, undertail coverts are buff, and underparts are otherwise white. The towhee is a species we anticipate will benefit from the management at the refuge.

  • Upland Forests

    Moody pond

    Upland forests provide support for a variety of habitats and wide-ranging biological diversity. They provide energy to streams in the form of organic material. Small streams rely on this energy almost exclusively to initiate their trophic interactions and food webs. These forests provide filtration along wetlands, rivers, and streams. Upland forests stabilize soils and sediment, minimizing erosion; moderate temperature by providing shade to small streams; provide important habitat for wildlife species that occupy vernal pools; and provide either direct or indirect habitat benefits to wildlife species including forest-dependent species, such as warblers and thrushes, and forest dwelling salamanders, such as marbled and Jefferson salamanders.

  • Wetlands


    Wetland habitats that are most vulnerable within the refuge include the brackish saltmarshes, Atlantic white cedar swamps, vernal pools, and kettle-hole ponds. Brackish saltmarshes are most vulnerable to sea level rise and an influx of salinity. Kettle-hole ponds are at risk due to an increase in invasive species growth as temperatures rise. Atlantic white cedar swamps have a medium vulnerability due to the benefits it receives from regularly prescribed burn and its resistance to wildfire.