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National Wildlife Refuge

30 Wikis Way
Morris Island
Chatham, MA   02633
E-mail: fw5rw_mnwr@fws.gov
Phone Number: 508-945-0594
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Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge
Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) was established in 1944 to provide habitat for migratory birds. Sand stretches for eight miles off the elbow of Cape Cod, forming the barrier islands of North and South Monomoy. In addition to the two islands, a 40-acre unit on Morris Island is also part of the refuge. This is where the headquarters and visitor center are located. The total size of the refuge is 7,604 acres with varied habitats of oceans, salt and freshwater marshes, dunes, and freshwater ponds. The refuge provides important resting, nesting and feeding habitat for migratory birds, including the Federally protected piping plover and roseate tern. More than ten species of seabirds, shorebirds, and waterbirds nest on the islands. The refuge also supports the second largest nesting colony of common terns on the Atlantic seaboard with over 8,000 nesting pairs.

Getting There . . .
To reach the refuge headquarters and visitor center on Morris Island, take U.S. Route 6 east to State Route 137 south to State Route 28. Take Route 28 east to the rotary in the center of Chatham. From the rotary take Main Street, up the hill to a T-intersection. Turn right and proceed past the Chatham Lighthouse and Coast Guard Station. Bear left after the lighthouse onto Morris Island Road, then take the first right. Follow Morris Island Road to signs for the refuge on the left.

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Wildlife and Habitat

Approximately ninety-four percent of the refuge is designated as a Wilderness Area. The visitor to this wilderness refuge encounters a very special place -- a sanctuary that supports an amazing diversity of wildlife and plant species. Monomoy has been listed as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network Regional site and an Important Bird Area due to its importance to migratory shorebirds. Monomoy's beaches provide important spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs. During the fall and winter, thousands of seaducks congregate in offshore areas around the refuge. The refuge is the largest haul-out site of gray seals on the Atlantic Seaboard with approximately 5,000 seals. Largely protected from human intrusion, Monomoy offers some of the most desirable habitat for seals in the region and harbor and gray seals now thrive on Monomoy. A restored Coast Guard lighthouse is located on South Monomoy and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is one of more than 540 refuges in the National Wildlife Refuge System throughout the United States. The National Wildlife Refuge System is the world's largest and most diverse collection of lands and waters specifically set aside for the conservation and management of wildlife resources. Monomoy NWR is one of eight refuges comprising the Eastern Massachusetts NWR Complex. These ecologically diverse refuges include the Assabet River, Great Meadows, Mashpee, Massasoit, Monomoy, Nantucket, Nomans Land Island, and Oxbow NWRs.

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Management Activities
One of the most significant management efforts on Monomoy is to create a "safe harbor" for coastal birds. By the early 1990s the refuge's resident populations of great black-backed and herring gulls had skyrocketed. The gulls on Monomoy overwhelmed smaller, less aggressive birds, particularly terns, which could not compete for nesting sites with the gulls. In 1996, the Service began a restoration project by creating a "gull-free-zone" on a portion of South Monomoy, and within the next few years the seabirds and shorebirds showed a significant comeback that has continued into the new millennium. The project has directly benefitted the Federally protected roseate tern and piping plover.

Piping plovers and roseate terns are not the only Federally protected species to receive attention from refuge staff. The refuge is trying to establish a population of Federally threatened Northeastern beach tiger beetles on Monomoy. The Federally protected tiger beetle has been on a downward population trend because of impacts by off-road vehicles and beach habitat manipulation. Only three populations of tiger beetles currently exist north of Chesapeake Bay. These beetles are being collected from a Martha's Vineyard beach and are being relocated to Monomoy.

The beaches on Monomoy provide important spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs. Refuge biologists monitor the horseshoe crab population due to the importance of their eggs as a shorebird food source.