I love my wilderness retreat. It is great to be out on the land in the far north surrounded by tall pine and situated on the side of a pristine esker lake. Much of my time is passed working away at renovations and, of course, watching the wildlife as they go about their daily chores.

Visitors come and go and I am very familiar now with the local mouse population that scrambles around in the walls, the squirrels and chipmunks that dart here and there all day long hard at gathering supplies for winter and the beavers that spend most of their time cleaning up after me by cutting away at felled trees. There are also the moose that call across the lake, the bears that leave tracks in the sand and the wolves that howl and sing at dusk.

We are careful being this remote in the wilderness but the local animals are not much of a threat. All this said I did not expect to have to deal with Boris.

The first sign of his presence was a scrambling and scratching sound under the old log cottage. That went on for a few days and I began to notice a smell in the air on the property. We realized that a skunk – or Sheekak in Cree – must have gone by and left his mark. Then, one evening as we were talking to a visiting neighbour, there he was out in full view sauntering past us. The plump, black little critter with the white stripe on his back was not at all concerned with our presence. The neighbour pointed out that he had come out from under the cottage.

Our neighbour Serge referred to the skunk in French by calling him a moufette. It occurred to us that the French word for this critter seemed much more kind than the English. Serge explained that this might be the moufette that he and his family referred to as “le chat d’Alain”. As a joke they had decided that the wandering moufette was probably another neighbour’s pet cat. We all got a laugh out of that.

On a more serious note we realized that somehow we had to evict this moufette from under the cottage. I began the eviction process by sealing up all the cracks, nooks and crannies that served as entry points for the moufette after watching his daily habits. That night somehow the little guy managed to get back under our chalet. He actually moved a concrete block.

It turned out he was nocturnal which meant he slept all day and then roamed at night. His comings and goings in the night awoke us and try as we might by stomping on the floorboards and banging pots and pans nothing bothered him. One night he returned in a big hurry perhaps with some other critter in chase. For some reason he resorted to spraying the side of the cottage and the smell awoke us immediately. It took our breath away and infuriated us.

In a rage I decided to fight fire with fire and I grabbed an almost full can of bear spray. I headed out into the night and sprayed all around the cottage and under the floorboards. There was no sign of the moufette as he had walked off in the dark. We went back into the cottage thinking we had won this war when suddenly we found we could not breath and we began to vomit. The bear spray had travelled up into the cottage’s interior and that forced us to head back out into the chilly autumn night gagging and gasping for breath. There was no sign of the moufette and now we had a much more serious problem on our hands as we dealt with both his stink and the presence of a very strong chemical stench. We ended up spending the night in the truck. We were not happy.

At about six in the morning we made our way back into the cottage and started a roaring fire and although a terrible odour was still about we decided to try to get some sleep. Our sleep was uneasy to say the least and then about an hour after heading to bed we were wakened by a terrible sound of screeching from under the cottage. The moufette had come back home, disturbed the soil wet with bear spray and was suffering the affects of this terrible and debilitating chemical. However, the critter did not leave and chose instead to race around under the cottage in pain for about an hour. Finally, he seemed to recover and went to sleep as did we. The following day we found his doorway to the cottage and painted a sign with the name Boris on it.