The Story of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge
In 1961, Cavit and Hope Buyukmihci, with their three children, purchased an 85-acre tract in Buena Vista Township, located in the Pinelands, halfway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, New Jersey. Mostly wooded swampland, the purchase included a cabin and an old barn on an acre of cleared land, and a stream which beavers had dammed to create a large pond. The Buyukmihcis were distressed by the increase in land development, reducing the habitat available for wildlife in Southern New Jersey. Since childhood, Hope had enjoyed the delightful wonder of bluebirds nesting in the spring, and it was vital that she passed along her respect and love for nature to her family. The couple decided to dedicate their land to habitat preservation so that native wildlife and habitat could thrive.
The Buyukmihcis settled down to raise their children in a simple environment. They made trails throughout the property, erected bird houses and posted NO TRESPASSING signs. They named their haven Unexpected Wildlife Refuge after Unexpected Road, off which it is situated. Friends, photographers, clubs and school children visited the Refuge to learn about the environment of South Jersey. That was in 1961 when the word ecology was unknown to the general public. To support the Refuge, Cavit worked as a metallurgist while Hope observed and photographed wildlife within the Refuge and wrote about her experiences. She published three books and gave lectures in schools, clubs and churches. In 1970, after befriending a family of beavers, she founded The Beaver Defenders, an organization dedicated to beaver protection and education.
Cavit Buyukmihci died in 1987, shortly after he had retired with the plan of spending more time protecting the Refuge and becoming more involved in the cause of animal rights. Hope continued to run the Refuge with the help of dedicated volunteers, supported entirely by private donations from visitors. On June 20, 2001, Hope passed the directorship to Sarah Summerville, who carries on the Refuge purpose of protecting the wild inhabitants and promoting humane education.
The Beaver Defenders, editorial by Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci reprinted from Good News, April 1970