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National Wildlife Refuge

American black duck (copyright Ed Sambolin)
340 Smith Rd.
Shirley, NY   11967
E-mail: longislandrefuges@fws.gov
Phone Number: 631-286-0485
Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
Wertheim's Carman's River estuary offers prime wintering habitat for declining black duck populations. (copyright Ed Sambolin)
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Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge
The Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge on the south shore of Long Island is one of the last undeveloped estuary systems remaining on Long Island. Approximately half of the refuge consists of aquatic habitats including bay with marine seagrass beds, intertidal saltmarsh, high saltmarsh, freshwater marsh, shrub swamp, and red maple swamp. The refuge's saltmarshes, combined with the adjacent New York State-owned saltmarsh, form the largest continuous saltmarsh on Long Island.

The remaining half of the refuge is upland featuring the rare Pine Barren habitats of pitch pine, oak-pine, mixed oak, pioneer hardwood, upland shrub, and grasslands.

The refuge's wildlife populations are quite diverse. About 300 species of birds have been documented at Wertheim. The refuge winters up to 5,000 waterfowl, the majority being black ducks - a species in nationwide decline. The coastal location also makes this refuge an excellent migration corridor for shorebirds, raptors and songbirds.

The main purpose for establishing the refuge was to protect the Carmans River Estuary for migratory birds. The River is a NY State-designated Wild and Scenic river and one of the Island's largest. The refuge supports eight Federal and/or New York State protected species.

Getting There . . .
Long Island Expwy. (I-495), Exit 68S, or Sunrise Hwy. (Rte.27), Exit 58S, to the William Floyd Pkwy. (CR46S). From the junction of William Floyd parkway and Montauk Highway (Rte. 27A/CR80) proceed west on Montauk (CR 80W) for approximately one mile, turn south onto Smith Road. Go 1/4 mile to the refuge entrance on the right.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Uplands A portion of Wertheim's terrestrial habitats includes pioneer hardwoods, dominated by black cherry and sassafras. The woody understory is robust with raspberry/dewberry, briar, black huckleberry, and lowbush blueberry. Red maple/tupelo stands occur in moist to wet areas (most typically along stream corridors) on the Refuge. The understory consists of spicebush, arrowwood, and pepperbush. Pitch pine forests are the most prominent at Wertheim, which is located in the central core area of the Long Island Pine Barrens. Pitch pine is the dominant tree species; other overstory species include white oak, red oak, and black oak. Woody understory species include black huckleberry, lowbush blueberry, and briar.

Both warm season and cool season grasslands are represented at Wertheim NWR. Warm season grasslands are dominated by little bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass, broomsedge, and big bluestem. Cool season grasslands are dominated by non-native grasses including meadow grass, orchard grass, timothy, fescue, and crab grass. One native cool season grasssweet vernal grassoccurs on forest edges and as a component of forest meadows.

Upland shrub habitats are dominated by arrowwood, bittersweet, honeysuckle, scrub oak, dogwood, hightide bush, beach plum and other woody species. Upland shrub areas grow along the wetland boundaries, forest edges, on impoverished soils, and areas where high white-tailed deer densities have limited forest regeneration. Shrub height in these habitats range from four to twelve feet.

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Centered around the Carmans River, the Refuge land holds a wealth of local history. Long before white settlers arrived on Long Island, the Unkechaug Tribe whaled and fished the Great South Bay and Carmans River from dugout canoes.

The whaling industry began in 1667 when settlers agreed to pay the Unkechaugs for every whale they delivered. The Carmans River (Wertheim NWR) was important as a landing place for whaling crews coming inland. Fires lit at Long's Point and Fire Place Neck (the Wellington parcel of the Wertheim NWR) guided boats in and landings built along the river including Indian Landing (now part of Wertheim NWR), Zach's Landing and Squassux Landing offered places to come ashore. Indian Landing served as a meeting place for Native Americans where a dock and drawbridge existed until World War I.

Cecile and Maurice Wertheim maintained the area that is now the Wertheim NWR as a private reserve for waterfowl hunting. The river was named after Samuel Carman, who married into the business of milling. Carman built a large house in front of the mills, which provided space for a post office, store and a tavern in which hunters from all over the State could stay.

Wertheim NWR is headquarters for the Complex. The 2,550-acre property was established in 1947 via donation from the Wertheim family, with an additional donated parcel (the Wellington tract, including the historic Fireplace Neck) added in 1974. These lands were acquired under the Migratory Bird Conservation Act and the Refuge Recreation Act. A 128-acre parcel referred to as the South Haven property was added in 1998. This property consists of one of the last remaining duck farms on Long Island. Additionally, a portion of the 19-acre Elias property was added in 1999 to further protect the Carmans River from commercial development.

The Sayville National Wildlife Refuge is a division of Wertheim. Established in 1993 via federal land transfer from the Federal Aviation Administration, the 22-acre parcel protects lands suitable for the endangered plant, sandplain gerardia.

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Management Activities
The Wertheim NWR is managed to protect and enhance habitat for migratory birds. Both upland and wetland habitats are actively managed for wildlife. Upland management activities at the refuge include a prescribed fire program, forest opening management, forest management, songbird nest box program, osprey nesting platform maintenance, and derelict land restoration. Refuge Biologists are also researching white-tailed deer management in order to enhance habitat for migratory birds, particularly those using the refuge for nesting.

Wetland management activities include open marsh water management, impoundment management, wood duck nest box program, and prescribed burning and mowing for Phragmites control, an exotic and invasive plant.

Natural resource inventories conducted include forest inventory, fire weather data, water quality, waterbird surveys, white-tailed deer counts, breeding bird surveys, waterfowl brood surveys, and salamander breeding counts.