Unexpected Wildlife Refuge



Newfield, NJ

Tax ID:


Tax-Exempt Status:


Budget (2017):

Revenue: $170,393
Expenses: $37,908
Assets: $1,938,521



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The Unexpected Wildlife Refuge is a left-of-center nonprofit organization that operates a protected nature reserve for plants and animals that are indigenous to southern New Jersey. The Refuge provides guided tours of the habitat1 and writes newsletters and other literature about the habitat and in support of various environmentalist issues. 2


The Unexpected Wildlife Refuge was founded by Cavit Buyukmihci and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci in the early 1960s after the couple decided to turn their 85-acre tract of land in the Pinelands, New Jersey into a nature reserve to protect local wildlife. In 1970, Hope founded the Beaver Defenders, an organization dedicated to education about beavers and their protection. The Beaver Defenders later merged with the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. 3

On October 6, 2005, the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge received a loan of $670,000 from the Open Space Institute to purchase a 127-acre farm in Atlantic County, New Jersey to enlarge the organization’s refuge. 4


The Unexpected Wildlife Refuge frequently advocates for left-of-center environmentalist regulations. On August 27, 2015, the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge filed a motion along with other animal welfare and conservation organizations with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to stop the implementation of a rule that would allow three types of leghold traps to be used on opossums and racoons in New Jersey. 5

In March 2020, Unexpected Wildlife Refuge joined a coalition of over 90 left-of-center organizations to call for the suspension of public comment periods on proposed environmentalist rules, citing concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. The coalitions sent a letter containing its demands to then-Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. These included calls to suspend public comment periods on several Bureau of Land Management rules on environmental impact. 6 In September of 2020, the refuge signed another letter to Secretary Bernhardt alongside another coalition of organizations calling for the removal for William Perry Pendley from his role at the head of Bureau of Land Management, claiming that he was unfit for the position. 7

On August 20, 2020, a coalition of left-of-center advocacy organizations, including the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge, sent a letter demanding that White House Senior Trade Advisor and “G20 Sherpa” Thomas Storch support a permanent ban on wild animal markets to prevent future pandemics. The coalition also called on Storch to commit to ending international trade in wild animals and their products at the G20 Leader’s Summit. 8

On December 21, 2020, the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge joined 134 other left-of-center, environmentalist nonprofit organizations demanding that President Joe Biden issue an executive order to end the “extinction crisis” as soon as he took office. The statement called on President Biden to declare the extinction crisis a national emergency, create national monuments protecting 30% of U.S. waters and lands by 2030 and 50% by 2050, and call for agencies to add climate change to their considerations for species protections under the Endangered Species Act. 9


Cavit Buyukmihci and Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci are the co-founders of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. They co-founded the organization in the 1960s after turning their property into a habitat preservation. 10

Darwin Sawyer is the president of the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. He has been associated with the organization since the early 1960s and is Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci’s nephew.

David Sauder is the vice president and secretary for the Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. He is also the president of Animal Rights Activists of New Jersey. 11


  1. Buyukmihci, Nedim C. “Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.” Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  2. Buyukmihci, Nedim C. “Archives.” Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  3. Buyukmihci, Nedim C. “The Story of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.” Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  4. “Open Space Institute Announces Loans for Conservation in New Jersey.” Open Space Institute. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  5. “Organizations File Motion to Prevent Use of Illegal Leghold Traps in New Jersey.” Animal Welfare Institute. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  6. “Coalition Joins Over 90 Organizations Calling for Suspension of Public Comment Periods During National Health Emergency.” Place HolderThe Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  7. “Re: Remove William Perry Pendley from the Bureau of Land Management.” The Wilderness Society. Last modified September 9, 2020.
  8. “Coalition of Animal and Environmental Organizations Calls on The White House to Support a G20 Ban on the Wildlife Trade.” PR Newswire: Press Release Distribution, Targeting, Monitoring and Marketing. Last modified August 20, 2020.
  9. Engkilterra, Shad. “With Trump’s Late-Term ‘War on Wildlife,’ 135 NGOs Implore Biden for E.O. to Slow the ‘Extinction Crisis’.” Last modified January 5, 2021.
  10. Buyukmihci, Nedim C. “The Story of Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.” Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Accessed February 25, 2021.
  11. Buyukmihci, Nedim C. “Unexpected Wildlife Refuge.” Unexpected Wildlife Refuge. Accessed February 25, 2021.
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Nonprofit Information

  • Accounting Period: December - November
  • Tax Exemption Received: June 1, 1969

  • Available Filings

    Period Form Type Total revenue Total functional expenses Total assets (EOY) Total liabilities (EOY) Unrelated business income? Total contributions Program service revenue Investment income Comp. of current officers, directors, etc. Form 990
    2017 Dec Form 990 $170,393 $37,908 $1,938,521 $0 N $150,337 $0 $20,056 $0 PDF
    2016 Dec Form 990 $29,679 $43,291 $1,786,793 $226 N $18,874 $0 $10,805 $15,000
    2015 Dec Form 990 $22,994 $42,470 $1,792,524 $141 N $19,712 $0 $3,282 $8,208 PDF
    2014 Dec Form 990 $35,965 $44,546 $1,811,857 $0 N $21,482 $0 $14,483 $13,000 PDF
    2013 Dec Form 990 $39,844 $46,817 $1,832,716 $0 N $30,700 $0 $9,144 $13,000 PDF
    2012 Dec Form 990 $47,377 $52,994 $1,839,689 $0 N $37,167 $0 $9,660 $10,750 PDF
    2011 Dec Form 990 $96,676 $45,937 $1,831,700 $0 N $84,864 $0 $11,262 $10,000 PDF

    Additional Filings (PDFs)

    Unexpected Wildlife Refuge

    PO BOX 765
    Newfield, NJ 08344-0765