APRIL FOOLS — Some residents fume over planned preserve.
APRIL FOOLS — The East County area has facilities that host lions and tigers, lemurs, bears, sea lions and rare horses.
Make room to see another preserve.
Or, perhaps, make room to smell another preserve.
The Alberta (Canada) World of Skunks Preserve has gone through county approvals and June 1 will break ground on a regional preserve on a 7-acre parcel on South Recluse Road in Myakka City.
After a search of various regions in the United States, the Canadian preserve decided to open a satellite facility in Florida due to the striped skunk's shrinking population.
"We go to areas based on need," said World of Skunks CEO Lau Z. Audair. "The striped skunk, like many other animals, has seen its habitat shrink in Florida due to the development. We don't have the money to buy up land to stop it, but we can buy some small parcels to host this glorious polecat."
Audair said skunks stay primarily out of sight, so the public isn't aware of their plight.
"It's probably off-color to mention this, but when was the last time you were driving and you got a good, healthy whiff of skunk?" he said. "Probably not in a long time. There just aren't many out there like there used to be."
Audair said the preserve would begin an immediate breeding program, aimed at repopulating the species in Manatee County.
"The hope is by 2022, you are going to see way more skunks around your homes," he said. "They really aren't a threat to humans and they're kind of pretty. Just keep your dogs on a leash, because that can get out of hand. I once had my black lab sprayed and we had to send him to a boarder for two weeks. That can get expensive."
While those at the preserve love skunks, not all Myakka City residents feel the same way. A group of 15 residents wore black and white shirts to a commission meeting with a big, red line through them.
"Their presentation said the primarily western winds in the area would keep the smell away from most homes," said local resident Jack Beenimble. "But I live to the preserve's east so I am not part of the 'most' homes. What I have been told is that I will get used to the smell, like dairy farmers get used to the barn smell. I would take cow manure any day over skunk spray. I don't want to get used to the smell."
He had others in his corner.
"I like to protect animals, but why here?" asked Bea Ware, another Myakka City resident who will live within a half mile of the facility. "Why don't they send them up to Canada to live in their own backyard, eh? All I can say is that this really stinks."
Audair said the residents are way overreacting.
"It's not like we are raising chickens," he said. "Smelly things. You have no trouble eating them, but you don't want to smell that once a month discharge from a skunk? The arguments just don't make sense. This is going to be a world class facility that will create business opportunities. That smell isn't skunk. It's the smell of money.
"You will have researchers from all over the world visiting the area to study these animals and they've got to stay in hotels and eat in restaurants. You will have skunk groomers and scientists shopping in your stores. We are cutting deals with local businesses to take the skunks who pass away and offer them to the clothing industry. The beautiful hair makes a nice scarf."
One county official, who didn't want to be identified said, "This is going to be a tax windfall, so for gosh sakes, hold your nose and smile."
The 22,000 square foot main building and four skunkhouses are scheduled to be finished by January, 2020.
the Striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis). in Florida.