Wildlife & Habitat

Wertheim provides a variety of habitats for many Long Island wildlife species. However, the refuge cannot take injured or abandoned wildlife from off-refuge areas. If you are looking for a qualified wildlife rehab facility, please contact a provider listed here: Long Island Wildlife Rehab.

  • Box Turtle

    Box turtle

    The box turtle is one of the easiest reptiles to see on the refuge. Usually spotted along the refuge roadways and trails, they begin to emerge in May but can be spotted on the refuge through August. The average life span of adult box turtles is 50 years, but some have been found in the wild at over 100 years old! The majority of their diet consists of insects, although they do eat some vegetation, making them omnivores. As the weather starts to cool, box turtles can be seen heading into the woods, where they dig a small chamber and overwinter underground.

  • Osprey


    The osprey, sometimes known as a fish eagle or fish hawk, is a common sight along the Carmans River in the spring and summer months (March – September). Their outstretched wings can span over five feet across. Ospreys are very well adapted to catch and eat fish. They can bend their outer toe backwards and have sharp spicules on the bottom of their toes to help hold slippery fish. Osprey can also close their nostrils when plunging into the water to catch their prey. Their large hooked beak and talons help them eat the fish when it finds a resting place.

  • Eastern Wild Turkey

    Eastern Wild Turkey

    Found throughout most of the eastern United States, the eastern wild turkey is a common year round visitor to Wertheim. Visitors can usually see the birds slowly walking from the forest across roadways and trails in small groups of about ten individuals. They prefer eating acorns, nuts and sometimes even tree leaves, but have been known to eat small amphibians and snakes, if they can catch them.

  • Pine Barrens

    Pine Barrens

    The refuge is located in the southern core of the Central Pine Barrens region of Long Island. This forested mosaic is dominated by pitch pine woodlands and pine-oak forests. This important region protects Long Island’s only aquifer, making it incredibly important for drinking water on the island. In addition to ensuring a large area of this ecosystem is free of development, the refuge is also maintaining its health through the use of prescribed fire. Pitch pine is a fire adapted tree that needs the heat of a passing fire to release the seeds from its cones. Without fire, the ecosystem cannot regenerate itself.

  • Wetlands


    In the 1930s, ditches were added to the marshes to drain them, assuming that drier marshes would reduce the mosquito populations. However, rain water still collected in low areas and mosquitoes continued to breed, and small fish that fed on mosquito larvae could no longer get into the drier marsh areas. Pesticides developed in the 1940s suppressed the mosquitoes, but damaged the marsh ecosystem. Today, an alternative to spraying insecticides is using Open Marsh Water Management. These techniques include filling in some of the ditches and creating new tidal creeks and ponds, which allow small fish and other mosquito predators back into the marsh.