Additional Wildlife Sanctuaries on Cape Cod and the Islands

Coastal Waterbird Protection beach

Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuary network on Cape Cod and the Islands include 22 properties. Of these, six are ready to be explored with marked trails, maps, signage, and designated parking areas including:

Ashumet Holly, Falmouth
Barnstable Great Marsh, Barnstable
Felix Neck, Edgartown
    Long Pasture, Barnstable
Skunknett River, Barnstable
Wellfleet Bay, Wellfleet
   
           

Sampsons Island, an Important Bird Area off Barnstable, has no formally designated trails and is best enjoyed by kayak. At Sesachacha Heathlands on Nantucket you can explore via unpaved sandy cart paths but there is no formal parking area. At Felix NeckLong Pasture, and Wellfleet Bay you will also find nature centers with naturalists to help inform your experience.

The other 14 wildlife sanctuaries are also conserved lands that are largely comprised of wetlands. While open to the public, they do not have established trails, maps, signage, or designated parking areas. Many of them are best viewed and appreciated from a distance by canoe or kayak.


Cape Cod

Cotuit Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable

2 acres

Location

Cotuit Bay Wildlife Sanctuary is a small property in Barnstable that borders Cotuit Bay on Cape Cod, about a half mile north of Dead Neck/Sampsons Island.

Conservation Features

This small wildlife sanctuary is situated within a residential neighborhood and is comprised of salt marsh and shrubland habitats. Nearby beaches and marshes in this region are important breeding and staging areas for several coastal bird species, including the federally endangered piping plover. The best way to observe this property is from a kayak or canoe in Cotuit Bay.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary (Falmouth)


Egg Island Shoal Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable

6 acres

Location

A small, mostly intertidal shoal within Hyannis Harbor in Barnstable.

Conservation Features

This property serves as a pre-migration fall staging area for up to 600-800 terns, as well as many shorebirds and gull species. The federally listed roseate tern, along with common terns, were reported to nest on Egg Island Shoal in the early 20th century. The best way to observe this property is from a canoe, kayak, or sailboat from within Hyannis Harbor.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary (Falmouth)


Indian Trail Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable

10 acres

Location

One of a series of Mass Audubon properties bordering Barnstable Harbor in Barnstable, this small wildlife sanctuary abuts conservation land managed by the Barnstable Land Trust.

Conservation Features

The wildlife sanctuary is made up of salt marsh surrounded by coastal/barrier beach communities and a tidal creek. The tidal flats adjacent to the salt marsh, but not part of the wildlife sanctuary, are habitat for shorebirds, winter waterfowl, and horseshoe crabs.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Maraspin Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable

3 acres

Location

This small wildlife sanctuary within the Sandy Neck Barrier Beach System is made up of three parcels along Maraspin Creek, a tidal creek that flows into the Barnstable Inner Harbor. It is best viewed from the bridge on Millway Street over Maraspin Creek.

Conservation Features

Most of its area is salt marsh with a small amount of adjacent coastal bank. The salt marsh immediately fringing Maraspin Creek is almost all tall cordgrass and marsh hay. Smaller amounts of other marsh plants, such as spike grass, black grass, sea lavender, saltmarsh sea blite, and glassworts are scattered throughout the marsh. Although the Maraspin Creek salt marshes are not directly connected to the vast Barnstable Great Marsh (3,000+ acres), it is likely that birds and fish routinely move between these areas.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Rendezvous Salt Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable

10 acres

Location

Rendezvous Salt Marsh is one of the Mass Audubon wildlife sanctuaries that border Barnstable Harbor in Barnstable. The wildlife sanctuary also abuts salt marsh owned by the Barnstable Land Trust.

Conservation Features

Aside from about an acre of coastal woodland, the sanctuary is mostly salt marsh dominated by tall cordgrass and marsh hay. The marsh offers habitat for the birds and fish that routinely move between nearby coastal habitats.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Popponesset Spit Wildlife Sanctuary, Mashpee

5 acres

Location

On the south shore of Cape Cod in Mashpee, this wildlife sanctuary is situated on the eastern end of the sandy peninsula that separates Popponesset Bay from Nantucket Sound. The remaining 12 acres of the peninsula are owned by Save Popponesset Bay, Inc.

Conservation Features

The wildlife sanctuary provides nesting habitat for coastal waterbirds of high conservation priority including piping plovers, least terns, and common terns. The wildlife sanctuary also serves as a pre-migration fall staging area for common terns and sometimes roseate terns as well as many shorebird species.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Fresh Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Dennis

8 acres

Location

Fresh Pond Wildlife Sanctuary is near but does not directly border Fresh Pond in Dennis. The wildlife sanctuary does abut protected open space owned by the Dennis Land Trust, which connects to Dennis town conservation land bordering Fresh Pond. The total complex of protected land is about 70 acres, much of which is wooded swamp.

Conservation Features

Approximately one-third of this property is freshwater wetlands, and the remainder is forested. A small stream runs from the sanctuary toward the Bass River. The shallow marsh meadow is visible from the road and contains broad-leaved cattails, and common reed. The wooded swamp near the road includes red maple, sweet pepperbush, and highbush blueberry.

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Sesuit Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Dennis

2 acres

Location

This small wildlife sanctuary is part of a larger 80-acre area of protected salt marsh along Sesuit Creek in Dennis.

Conservation Features

Virtually all of the wildlife sanctuary is salt marsh dominated by typical New England salt marsh plants. Marsh animals observed at this site include ribbed mussels, mud fiddler crabs, and the salt marsh killifish. Diamondback terrapins may also be found here. 

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Cuttyhunk Thicket Wildlife Sanctuary, Gosnold

9 acres

Location

The two properties that make up this wildlife sanctuary are located in the town of Gosnold on Cuttyhunk Island, the westernmost of the Elizabeth Islands. In the early fall, Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary offers naturalist-guided cruises to the island.

Conservation Features

Much of this wildlife sanctuary is dense shrubland that includes a coastal bluff and beach on Vineyard Sound. 

Nearby Places to Explore

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Ashumet Holly Wildlife Sanctuary (Falmouth)


Tern Island Wildlife Sanctuary, Chatham

28 acres

Location

Located just off the town dock, this island in Chatham Harbor is protected from the open waters of the Atlantic Ocean by Nauset Beach but remains strongly influenced by changes in the Nauset Beach barrier island, which can result in altered wave and current patterns.

Conservation Features

Tern Island provides nesting habitat for Least Tern and Common Terns, two state-listed coastal waterbirds. It also serves as a fall migration rest stop for large numbers of shorebirds. The tidal flats north of the island are an important feeding area for migratory shorebirds, and the mussel beds surrounding the island support relatively large numbers of feeding American oystercatchers during the spring through fall. Uncommon species such as whimbrels and marbled godwit, Hudsonian godwit, and even a bar-tailed godwit have been regularly recorded at the island.

Nearby Places to Explore

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Wellfleet) • Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable) • Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary (Barnstable)


Outermost House Wildlife Sanctuary, Eastham

Originally 43 acres (now mostly submerged or intertidal lands)

Location

On the shore of Nauset Beach in Eastham, Outermost House is now largely submerged due to erosion and shifting of the barrier beach as well as the migration northward of the tidal inlet that connects the Nauset estuary with the Atlantic Ocean. This site is adjacent to the lands of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Conservation Features

This property provided inspiration for the publication of the Outermost House, an important book of American environmental literature. The author, Henry Beston, was a naturalist and writer who built a cottage at the site in 1925. Named the Fo’castle, the cottage was destroyed during the blizzard of February 1978. 

Nearby Places to Explore

Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (Wellfleet)


Martha's Vineyard

Edgartown Great Pond Wildlife Sanctuary, Edgartown

50 acres

Location

The wildlife sanctuary is situated on the southeast part of Nashomois Neck, a peninsula that juts into Edgartown Great Pond on Martha’s Vineyard. Large parcels of protected open space lie west and north of the sanctuary. These include the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest and land owned by the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. There is also town-owned land to the northeast of the property.

Conservation Features

Primarily a coastal forest/woodland natural community, the wildlife sanctuary is dominated by black and white oaks with some pitch pine. However, the most valuable natural feature of this property is its proximity to the coastal salt pond. These special bodies of water are particularly valued for their shellfish, wintering waterfowl, seagrass beds, and overall contribution to coastal productivity.

Nearby Places to Explore

Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary (Edgartown)


Nantucket

Smith’s Point Wildlife Sanctuary, Nantucket

17 acres

Location

Smith’s Point Wildlife Sanctuary is located on the southwest corner of Nantucket. The western section is barrier beach and the eastern portion is glacial outwash sedimentary deposits overlain by sand dunes. The barrier beach is a highly dynamic landscape, varying greatly in length and width throughout the years. 

Conservation Features

Smith’s Point Wildlife Sanctuary provides habitat suitable for nesting piping plovers and is also an important pre-migration staging area for least terns, common terns, and roseate terns. The shoreline is rapidly eroding as sea level continues to rise.

Notice from Department of Defense

On approximately June 8, 2018, Mass Audubon, like many other property owners in the Madaket area of Nantucket, received a notice from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). This DOD notice states that military munitions from World War II “may be present on or near” property owned by Mass Audubon, which is within the Sheep Pond Formerly Used Defense Site Property. Mass Audubon’s approximately one acre property is depicted on the map included in the DOD notice and also on Nantucket Assessors Map 38, Parcel 13. Our property is a small, isolated parcel, which has not been prepared for public visitation with amenities such as parking, maps, signage, or trails. It is wet and not easily accessible. Due to these potential safety concerns, this property is closed to the public until further notice. Our other conservation properties on Nantucket, including Sesachacha Heathlands, Lost Farm, and the remainder of Smith’s Point, are not affected by this DOD notice.

Nearby Places to Explore

Sesachacha Heathlands Wildlife Sanctuary (Nantucket)


Lost Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Nantucket

77 acres

Location

Lost Farm Wildlife Sanctuary is located in the west-central portion of Nantucket along the eastern shore of Hummock Pond. The wildlife sanctuary is bordered on the north, south, and a portion of the east by Nantucket Land Bank property, forming a block of protected conservation land totaling approximately 160 acres. 

Conservation Features

Lost Farm, along with other conservation land surrounding Hummock Pond, helps buffer the pond from the impacts of residential development and agricultural activities within the pond’s watershed. The wildlife sanctuary also supports a number of state-listed plant species including purple needlegrass, bushy rockrose, sandplain blue-eyed grass, butterfly weed, and Nantucket shadbush. It is likely that the patches of scrub oak and huckleberry that occur on the wildlife sanctuary support a number of rare moth species and northern harriers occasionally forage at this site.

Nearby Places to Explore

Sesachacha Heathlands Wildlife Sanctuary (Nantucket)