Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge

Nomans Land Island National Wildlife Refuge is one of eight national wildlife refuges that comprise the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Due to the potential safety risks associated with unexploded ordnance and the value of this island as a relatively natural island habitat, the refuge is closed to all public uses.

Location and Contact Information

      About Us

      Nomans Land Island is located in Dukes County, Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. This island has a unique history. Historically, the Cape and Islands were home to the Wampanoag Tribe. The island also had sheep grazing when the island was privately owned in the 1800’s, to then being used as a bombing range by the U.S. Navy starting during World War II. Portions of the island have been managed by the Service since 1970, while the island was still owned by the U.S. Navy. The Navy transferred ownership of the island to the Service in 1998. therefore, establishing the refuge. Due to the potential safety risks associated with unexploded ordnance and the value of this island as a relatively natural island habitat, the refuge is closed to all public uses. 

      Nomans Land Island provides diverse habitats including intertidal, freshwater wetland, grassland, and shrubland habitats. It serves an important role for nesting colonial waterbirds, and as a stopover for migratory birds. Species that inhabit the 628-acre island include, seabirds such as double crested cormorants and common terns, waterfowl, marsh bird, shorebirds, songbirds, raptors, reptiles such as the spotted turtle, mammals, including the New England cottontail and insects, such as the monarch butterfly.  

      What We Do

      Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
      A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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      is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.   

      Our Species

      The refuge was created to safeguard and enhance the pristine wildlife habitat of Nomans Land Island, to protect endangered and threatened species, and to provide feeding, nesting, and roosting areas for migratory birds. The refuge provides undisturbed habitat for a wide array of avian species such as seabirds like common terns and double-crested cormorants, raptors including peregrine falcons and bald eagles and over 25 species of songbirds have been surveyed by refuge staff. Various waterfowl species, shorebirds, and marsh birds are abundant as well, including, American black ducks, mallards, green-winged teals, American oystercatchers and black-crowned night herons. Nomans Land Island is an important stop over during migration for many species, including birds, however, especially for the monarch butterfly. In the spring of 2019, with several conservation partners, New England cottontails were released on the refuge to establish a new population. There are no mammalian predators on the island, however, there have been sightings of river otter, muskrat, gray seals, and harbor seals.

      Brown and gray rabbit hides in the grass

      The New England cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) is a medium-large sized cottontail rabbit that may reach 1,000 grams (2.2 pounds) in weight. Sometimes called the gray rabbit, brush rabbit, wood hare or cooney, it can usually be distinguished from the sympatric eastern cottontail and...

      FWS Focus
      A monarch butterfly on a yellow flower

      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

      Projects and Research

      Most research, projects, and initiatives on the refuges comprising the Eastern Massachusetts National Wildlife Refuge Complex examine management of avian resources, various public uses, rare, threatened, or endangered species and habitats, and invasive species invasive species
      An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

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      control. In 2019, New England cottontails were released on the refuge to establish a new population.