Red bat sleeping in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge
Red bats can be mistaken for dead leaves as they sleep in trees during the day.

NPS photo

Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)

The red bat is one of several species of bats found at Gateway. Like other bats, the red bat uses echolocation. To echolocate, bats emit a high pitched noise and then listen for the echoes, which the bat's brain automatically interprets to provide an image of its surroundings. Bats also have fairly acute vision, contrary to what some people believe. Using their senses and rapid flight, red bats spend the night hunting insects. During the day, red bats sleep in trees, where they may be mistaken for a dead leaf. Unlike other bats, red bats are usually solitary, but will flock together to migrate south in the autumn.

Muskrat feasting on a fish.
Muskrat feed mostly on aquatic plant material, but also consume frogs, turtles and fish when available.

NPS Photo

Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

Some confuse this medium-sized semi-aquatic rodent with a beaver, however if one can view these creatures from behind, they will notice a rather long skinny, scale-covered tail, more similar to a rat, than a beaver. The muskrat acquired its name from the two scent glands it has near its tail, which give off a musky odor for territory marking purposes. They are often seen feeding on plant materials, but sometimes eat mussels, frogs, fish and small turtles in the waters throughout Jamaica Bay, in both salt and fresh water. In addition to having semi-webbed feet, they can close off their ears to keep water out and can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes. These adaptations allow them to thrive both on land and in the water. Some of their most common predators in the area include snakes, owls, hawks, and snapping turtles.

Seals visit Sandy Hook and other places in New York Harbor.
A seal in a "haul out" at Sandy Hook.


Seals (Pinniped phocidae)

In a "haul out," seals land on protected beaches or spits to bask in the sun. Haul outs on Sandy Hook can be seen from December through March.

Sandy Hook's seal visitors are true seals, unlike their relative the sea lion. They lack external ear flaps and are also smaller and more skittish. Their long, hairless front flippers are used for propulsion in water while the hind flippers are used for steering. The hind flippers can also be brought forward and under the body, allowing them to flop along on their bellies. Seals have a thick blubber layer which, combined with a fur coat, protects them in frigid climates.

Seals, along with sea lions and walruses, are classified in a warm blooded group called pinnipeds. Pinnipeds spend most of their lives in the water but come on land to give birth, raise their young and to molt. They can sleep in water but must wake up frequently to surface and breathe. They are gifted swimmers, able to dive up to 1,500 feet for as long as 40 minutes. Submerged seals use oxygen stored in their blood and muscles as well as their lungs. Large eyes protected by oily "tears" assist the seal in dark waters.

The red fox is a wild animal that can be found surprisingly close to populated areas.
The red fox is a wild animal that can be found surprisingly close to populated areas.


Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)

The red fox is one of the most adaptable and widespread mammals in North America. It resembles a small dog, with reddish- brown fur, large pointed ears, a skinny muzzle, and a long bushy tail with a white tip (called a brush). Unlike the family pet, however, the red fox is a wild animal with an extraordinary ability to survive in a range of habitats.

Foxes live in burrows or dens located near wooded areas, around the edges of grassy fields and marshes, under stable sand dunes, or even in towns and cities. While not always present on Sandy Hook, the current population of fox probably became established from individuals walking over the Highlands bridge or crossing the ice sometime in the late 1980s.

Last updated: May 9, 2018

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