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In the Keys, there's a new skunk in town. Sheriff's petting zoo gives 'Squirt' a new home

squirt take two.jpeg
Gwen Filosa
Squirt, the skunk, moved to the Florida Keys in January 2023, joining the herd of animals at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm.

Meet Squirt, a skunk who needed a home and just landed in the Florida Keys.

He is four years old and fully grown at six pounds, and is the latest catch for a petting zoo located at a Keys jail on Stock Island.

Built in 1994 as a haven for chickens and ducks that were getting killed regularly on College Road, which leads to the jail, the Monroe County Animal Farm today is a top Key West attraction.

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It's home for about 120 animals, including Jack the ostrich, Albert the tortoise and a big pig named Wilbur. Goats, a peacock, miniature horses, several goats, prairie dogs, armadillos and donkeys also live there.

Squirt, a black and white furry fellow is, like the others, adopted.

But, unlike some of the farm's residents, Squirt the skunk comes from a good home, according to Jeanne Selander the farm's director for the past 17 years.

And he doesn't spray that infamous skunk odor. He's a product of breeders — not the wild.

It's typical for breeders to remove the skunks' scent glands, rendering them powerless to unleash their famous unpleasant calling card, Selander said.

"They make great pets apparently, and they don't smell," Selander said. "He's in very good shape. The guy did take good care of him."

Squirt's owner said he couldn't give him the time the pet deserves, Selander said. So he contacted a Florida animal rescue organization.

Animal rescue workers in Florida started making calls.

Skunk's journey from Central Florida to the Keys was a team effort. A fishing boat mate in Key Largo, who has family near Skunk's original home in Orange City, volunteered to give him a ride to Key West.

Selander was looking for a skunk. The farm's two skunks, Coco and Chanel, died in 2020 from old age. They were 10 and 12.

Gwen Filosa
A skunk named Squirt rests in his new home at the Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm in January 2023, a week after his arrival as a new adopted pet.

Selander hopes to turn Squirt into a spokesman for the animal farm, which is staffed by inmates and routinely posts calls for donations of supplies.

If her plans work out for Squirt, he would make appearances with her at schools and events — just like Mo, the farm's beloved sloth, who died in 2021 at age 18.

Mo was a Keys celebrity, traveling throughout the island chain with Selander while draped over her shoulders.

"Squirt is hopefully going to be one of our new outreach animals, and just as Chanel the skunk was a great outreach animal," Selander said.

Skunks remain famous for odor, however. Kids don't give them the benefit of the doubt, Selander said.

"The first thing the kids do when they see the skunk is hold their nose," she said, standing with Squirt in his new digs at the farm. "So I have to tell them he's been descented."

Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm
Squirt the skunk

For the record, Squirt has a slight "musky" smell, as Selander describes it.

"But not so much like a ferret, a ferret really has a smell," she said. "It's a little musky but it's not offensive."

Squirt is the silent type. He didn't even make audible noise as he carefully ate a lunch of mashed turkey with some green beans and a flourish of red pepper on a recent afternoon.

"He loves to snuggle," Selander said. "If I were to pick him up and hold him in his blanket he would snuggle me. And they have great personalities."

Squirt spent his first week on the farm hiding inside a tiny pet carrier in his pen, which is next-door to two armadillos.

"We're just taking our time with him, letting him get used to all the sights and smells of the farm," Selander said. "So he's not fearful of us."

A pro tip: Selander puts his food down before she reaches for him.

"I want him to come out to me," she said. "I don't want him to feel like we're going to force him to come out."

Squirt walked right out once his food bowl was placed before him the other day.

His former owner misses him, Selander said, who has been keeping in touch with him.

"When I have an owner like that, that really loves their animal I try to text them and send them photos and keep them in the loop," she said. "And then they will visit."

Squirt represents a new generation of animals at the farm. Angus the bull is gone, along with Snowflake the alpaca - who was known for giving kisses as a greeting.

"A lot of them are aging out. They're reaching the end of their life span," Selander said. "And sometimes they're not in the best condition when they get here."

The Monroe County Sheriff's Office Animal Farm is located at 5501 College Road, on Stock Island. It's open to the public on the second and fourth Sundays of each month from 1 to 3 p.m. Admission is free but the farm takes donations.

Gwen Filosa covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. She has been reporting from the island chain for over a decade, from Cuban landings and the workforce housing crisis, to the oddities and charms of the Keys.