Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge relocated all of its animals in Okaloosa to a new, larger facility in Navarre on Sunday.
NAVARRE — Squirrels nestled themselves in blankets or cuddled up with each other for the ride to the new Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge facility in Navarre on Sunday.
Squirrels were only a few of the animals that traveled from their home in Okaloosa County to Santa Rosa County.
Volunteers spent the morning preparing the turtles, birds, snakes and opossums for their journey. A skunk was hiding in the back of its travel cage as the other animals were being loaded onto the trailer.
After all the animals were placed in their travel containers and the smaller empty cages were packed away, the original building looked empty. The outdoor cages were one of the only things left behind.
The vehicles heading to Wildlife Refuge’s new, larger facility lined up in a procession with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office leading the way.
At the county line, the Santa Rosa County Sheriff’s Office continued the journey.
"To see those red lights ahead of us knowing that that’s Santa Rosa County welcoming us," said Stormy Andersen, executive director of the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge, which rehabilitates and releases orphaned and injured wildlife in Northwest Florida. "I don’t have the words to express how excited and thankful I am."
At the new building, even more volunteers arrived to help. A group of Boy Scouts built a fence around one of the turtle enclosures. Some volunteers were helping unload trailers or feed animals.
With the facility in Navarre, there are new changes. The new facility has two buildings, large outdoor enclosures and more space for the animals.
Within the second building, there are rooms for infant animals and juvenile animals, and a medical room. There is a special enclosure within the property geared specifically to hawks and larger birds.
The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge acquired the property around four years ago.
"We’ve done years of planning for this," said Andersen.
Originally, Andersen didn’t think it would take this long, but construction delays lengthened the process.
The grand opening of the new facility at 3051 Cloptons Circle is set for Dec. 7.