National Wildlife Refuge
|8231 Beach Road
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Phone Number: 757-336-6122
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Chincoteague NWR, located primarily on the Virginia side of Assateague Island, consists of more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, marsh, and maritime forest. Chincoteague NWR, originally established in 1943 to provide habitat for migratory birds (with an emphasis on conserving greater snow geese), today provides habitat for waterfowl, wading birds, shorebirds, and song birds, as well as other species of wildlife and plants. Refuge staff manage this barrier island habitat to allow many species of wildlife to coexist, each establishing their own place in the environment. In fact, more than 320 species of birds are known to occur on the refuge. The refuge has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area, is part of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network and designated as one of the top ten birding Hotspots by the National Audubon Society.
Refuge management programs restore threatened and endangered species such as the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, the bald eagle and the piping plover. More than 2,600 acres of man-made marshes, or moist soil management units, are managed for wintering waterfowl and shorebirds during migration. Unique residents of the island, the famous Chincoteague ponies, are housed in two areas on the refuge through a special agreement with the ponies' owners, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
With approximately 1.4 million visits a year, Chincoteague NWR is one of the most visited refuges in the nation. Chincoteague NWR provides visitors with extraordinary educational and recreational opportunities. In addition, a special partnership exists with the National Park Service which allows Assateague Island National Seashore to administer public activities on a five-mile portion of the refuge beach.
The new Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center offers educational exhibits, an auditorium and wet laboratory/classroom for visiting groups.
Getting There . . .
From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge & Tunnel near Norfolk, Virginia, take US 13 North to State Route 175 East to Chincoteague Island. After crossing the bridge to Chincoteague, turn left at the traffic light onto Main Street. At Maddox Blvd. turn right and follow for about 2.5 miles, which will take you directly onto the refuge.
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The most noticeable management technique on the refuge is the careful manipulation of water levels in the moist soil management units. Water control structures in these areas allow refuge staff to lower water levels in the spring to concentrate fish for wading birds to feed upon, provide ideal feeding conditions for shorebirds, grow plants as a food source for waterfowl and other birds, and maintain wetland diversity for a myriad of wildlife species. In the fall, water control structures are closed to collect rainwater. The higher water levels provide habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wetland dependent species. This careful manipulation of water levels is vital in attracting a wide variety of wildlife to the refuge.
The maritime forests are managed for the endangered Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel, neotropical migrants, and resident wildlife species. Past outbreaks of the Southern pine beetle have added complexity to the forest management regime. Tree thinning and prescribed burns work to prevent Southern pine beetle outbreaks by improving the health of the forests. Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrels, which favor a clear forest understory, take advantage of these management practices.
Piping plover management is intense from March through August. This threatened shorebird nests on Chincoteague NWR beaches. Refuge staff place protective closures around nests, control predators, and monitor these birds during their refuge stay.
Protecting sensitive habitats by closing areas also helps to protect threatened and endangered species. Setting aside certain habitat areas to reduce disturbance by people helps preserve the natural heritage that many Americans have come to love and treasure.