What We Do

Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the National Wildlife Refuge System. It drives everything on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands and waters managed within the Refuge System, from the purposes for which a national wildlife refuge national wildlife refuge
A national wildlife refuge is typically a contiguous area of land and water managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service  for the conservation and, where appropriate, restoration of fish, wildlife and plant resources and their habitats for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

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is established to the recreational activities offered to the resource management tools used. Using conservation best practices, the Refuge System manages Service lands and waters to help ensure the survival of native wildlife species.   

Management and Conservation

Refuges deploy a host of scientifically sound management tools to address biological challenges. These tools span active water management to wilderness character monitoring, all aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach to benefit both wildlife and people.  At this field station our conservation tool box includes: 

  • Planning – Comprehensive Conservation Plan 
  • Habitat Restoration  
  • Agriculture 
  • Climate Resilience  
  • Conservation Easements 
  • Compatibility Determinations 
  • Education & Outreach  
  • Fire Management 
  • Invasive Species 
  • Inventory and Monitoring 
  • Land Acquisition 
  • Law Enforcement 
  • Pesticide Management 
  • Recreation Management 
  • Species Research  
  • Water Management 

Our Services

Special Use Permits

Some commercial, recreational and research activities are allowed on national wildlife refuges only with a special use permit issued by the local office, and are subject to specific conditions and fees. This permit requirement is meant to ensure that all activities at the federal site are compatible with the refuge’s Congressionally mandated wildlife conservation goals. Permits enable the public and scientific communities to engage in legitimate wildlife-related activities that would be otherwise prohibited by law. Service permit programs ensure that such activities are carried out in a manner that safeguards wildlife.   

Special Use Permits

The Service has developed three different Special Use Permit (SUP) forms which may enable the public to engage in activities considered a) commercial b) research and c) other general uses.

1. National Wildlife Refuge System Commercial Activities Special Use Application and Permit (FWS Form 3-1383-C) for:

  • Commercial activities such as guiding hunters, anglers or other outdoor users; 
  • Commercial filming (audio, video, and photographic products of a monetary value); 
  • Agriculture (haying, grazing, crop planting, logging, beekeeping, and other agricultural products).

2. National Wildlife Refuge System Research and Monitoring Special Use Application and Permit (FWS Form 3-1383-R) for:

  • Research and monitoring activities by students, universities, or other non-FWS organizations.


3. National Wildlife Refuge System General Special Use Application and Permit (FWS Form 3-1383-G) for:

  • Woodcutting; 
  • Nocturnal possum/raccoon hunting and frog-gigging;
  • Hunting Dog retrieval
  • Miscellaneous events (fishing tournaments, one-time events, other special events); 
  • Other (any activity not mentioned above and not usually available to the general public). 

The above-referenced activities are not necessarily conducted on every refuge. Contact the Refuge manager to inquire whether we consider the proposed use appropriate or compatible on Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.

See below for permit files. Prospective permit holders may fill out the corresponding application and return it to the refuge for processing. Please allow a minimum of two weeks for permit processing. 

By email: alligatorriver@fws.gov

By mail:
Alligator River NWR
P.O. Box 1969
Manteo, NC 27954

The permit is not valid until approved and signed by a refuge official.

Commercial Kayak Tour Special Use Permits

The refuge issues Special Use Permits to allow commercial companies to offer guided kayak tours on the refuge. Due to the high level of interest and the limited infrastructure on the refuge, these special use permits have stipulations to allow for sustainable use. 

The launch site at the end of Buffalo City Road experiences very high use and has additional stipulations. In order to plan for each summer's level of use, the refuge requires commercial kayak tour operators interested in a permit at the Buffalo City launch site to submit an application at the beginning of each year. Applications for Summer 2024 are due no later than February 29, 2024. The application form, FWS Form 3-1383-C, can be found at the link below. 

Please fill out the application form in as much detail as possible, including the number of tours per day you would operate. If there are not enough openings for tours on the refuge to permit that number of tours, the refuge may allocate a specific day for an additional tour. Please also note your preferred weekday if an additional tour were to be permitted.

Our Projects and Research

A wide variety of projects and scientific research are occurring on the refuge. 

Hydrology Restoration and Climate Change Adaptation

The Nature Conservancy and Alligator River NWR are working together on a hydrology restoration and climate change climate change
Climate change includes both global warming driven by human-induced emissions of greenhouse gases and the resulting large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Though there have been previous periods of climatic change, since the mid-20th century humans have had an unprecedented impact on Earth's climate system and caused change on a global scale.

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adaptation project on the eastern boundary of the refuge.  This project is focused on putting infrastructure in place to allow the refuge to more closely mimic natural hydrology in that area, which will help reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires and slow salt water intrusion.  Water control structures and oyster reefs are being put in place and salt tolerant tree species are being planted as part of the project. In addition, researchers have installed equipment at sites on the refuge to monitor the intake and release of carbon in the ecosystem.

Red Wolf Recovery Program

Alligator River NWR is home to some of the few wild red wolves in the world. Red wolves are the most endangered wolf in North America. Learn more about the Red Wolf Recovery Program.