Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge provides visitors with outstanding opportunities to immerse themselves amidst the wildlife and wildlands of Virginia's Eastern Shore.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Prepares for Prescribed Burns

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

News Release (For Immediate Release)

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

8231 Beach Road, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336

Contact: John Kasbohm, Project Leader       

Phone:  757-336-6122

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Prepares for Prescribed Burns

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is planning prescribed burns on three management units from January through March 2023. These burns will help remove standing dead stalks of the invasive plant Phragmites australis as a follow-up to herbicide treatments conducted last summer in targeted areas near the Wildlife Loop and the Marsh Trail, including patches within Snow Goose Pool.

Although management of this persistent plant requires multiple treatments, the results benefit wildlife and visitors alike. The newly open, sunlit ground will encourage beneficial native vegetation to grow. Native plants are a higher quality food source for migratory birds and grazing animals. The treatment will also open up viewscapes for visitors who enjoy watching wildlife while exploring refuge trails and the Wildlife Loop.

These prescribed fires are part of a series that will take place over the next few years to address ongoing habitat management needs throughout the refuge. Future burns will address vegetation management within and around our wetland impoundments. Under certain conditions, it will not be unusual for the refuge to conduct multiple burns in any given year.  This year, no burns are planned in areas grazed by Chincoteague ponies.

Wildland firefighters ignite prescribed burns under a pre-determined set of conditions to accomplish specific resource management objectives. These conditions include weather, fuel moisture, and firefighting resource availability. All prescribed burns will be conducted as interagency projects, with local support, under the guidance and direction of trained and experienced U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildland firefighters.

We anticipate the burns in early 2023 to take several days to complete. Smoke from the burns may be visible in and around the Chincoteague area. Take additional care if you are driving in smoky areas - reduce your speed and turn on your headlights.

Many refuge trails and parking areas will remain open during prescribed burn prescribed burn
A prescribed burn is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, or achieve other habitat management goals. We have been using prescribed burn techniques to improve species habitat since the 1930s.

Learn more about prescribed burn
operations. However, the Wildlife Loop, the Service Road, and portions of Beach Road and trails immediately adjacent to burn units may be temporarily closed for a short period to ensure visitor and firefighter safety, and to allow free flow of support services to the fire.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

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With 15 miles of hiking and a pristine beach, there are plenty of opportunities to seek out wildlife and connect with the area's rich cultural history.


Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Located on the Indigenous homelands of the Pocomoke and Occohannock people, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge protects beach, dune, marsh, and maritime forest habitats. Originally established in 1943 to protect migratory birds, this refuge is now one of the most visited in the United States. This gem of Eastern Virginia is a birder's paradise, as well as the home of cultural treasures such as Assateague Lighthouse and the world famous Chincoteague ponies. 

      What We Do

      With a focus on providing high quality habitat for migratory birds, our refuge features 14 moist soil management units that serve as a rest and refueling location for waterfowl, shorebirds and other coastal birds during their long journeys. In the summer, our biology team works to protect the habitat and nesting sites of the threatened piping plover, as well as other beach nesting birds such as the American oystercatcher and least tern. In our forests, we were a proud contributor to the recovery of the once endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel population. Setting aside certain habitat areas to reduce disturbance by people helps us preserve the natural heritage that many American have come to love and treasure. 

      Our Species

      We have a diversity of habitats, ranging from the beach and dunes to the vast salt marshes to the west of the islands. It's no surprise then that our wildlife is equally varied and bountiful, from the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, an animal recently removed from the endangered species list, to our vast array of migratory and nesting birds such as the threatened piping plover. This refuge is truly a wildlife enthusiast's paradise.

      Size: 18 cm (7.25 in) in length. Color: Breeding season: Pale brown above, lighter below; black band across forehead; bill orange with black tip; legs orange; white rump. Male: Complete or incomplete black band encircles the body at the breast. Female: Paler head band; incomplete breast band....

      FWS Focus

      Adult monarch butterflies are large and conspicuous, with bright orange wings surrounded by a black border and covered with black veins. The black border has a double row of white spots, present on the upper side of the wings. Adult monarchs are sexually dimorphic, with males having narrower...

      FWS Focus

      This large, slate grey tree squirrel (Sciurus niger cinereus) has an unusually full, fluffy tail and white belly. Larger than common gray squirrels, this fox squirrel subspecies measures up to 28 inches long and weighs up to three pounds. Once found throughout the Delmarva Peninsula, the range...

      FWS Focus