We have a four-fold mission:
1. To obtain and protect habitat in the New Jersey Pinelands area so that indigenous animals and plants can have an unexploited opportunity to live;
2. To protect free living (wild) animals from hunting, trapping, fishing and other consumptive activities by people;
3. To provide a "living classroom" for the public to study nature and appreciate the importance of wildlife and habitat protection; and
4. To work with individuals and communities to peacefully resolve conflicts with wildlife.
The co-founders of the Refuge were Hope Sawyer Buyukmihci and Cavit Buyukmihci. Hope was an impassioned naturalist, artist, activist and writer. Her compassion was infectious and Cavit, a metallurgical engineer, fully embraced an ethic of reverence for all life. Together, they recognized early on that the biggest threat to wildlife involves loss of habitat through destruction or fragmentation. As a result, they donated their land and home in the New Jersey Pinelands region to begin Unexpected Wildlife Refuge in 1961. Since then, the Refuge has achieved nonprofit status and has added additional contiguous land so that today it encompasses 767 acres of vital habitat comprising wetlands, forests, bogs and standing ponds. This provides living opportunities for hundreds of species of amphibians, birds, insects, mammals, reptiles and other animals, and plants. Some are considered biologically threatened (Pine Barrens tree frog), endangered (red-bellied turtle) and scarce (southern twayblade orchid and the wild lupine, the latter which is the only known host plant for the nationally endangered butterfly, the Karner blue).
From its inception, the Refuge has remained undeveloped and wild, with the exception of miles of nominally maintained and minimally intrusive trails. These trails provide an avenue for public outreach and education as well as protecting the Refuge's borders. Hunting, fishing, trapping and other consumptive exploitation have always been prohibited. Peaceful coexistence with wildlife is a key part of wildlife and habitat protection and the Refuge extends its influence beyond its borders to help the public achieve this.