A Moufette By Any Other Name…

A rose by any other name will still smell as sweet – and a moufette won’t.

I wandered out into the garden last evening to look at my perennial patch and as I stood gazing around my eye caught sight of a moufette a few rows over among the strawberry plants. For those of you who have never seen a moufette, this cat-like critter has long black fur over most of its plump self, except for this white stripe down its head that divides in two as it goes down its back. And it has this huge, fluffy tail. Perhaps that’s why the French have dubbed it moufette?

Moufette detected me first; his plumy tail was waving high – the business end aimed in my direction – before I noticed him. As I seemed not inclined to get any closer to making his acquaintance, he settled down again. In spite of its whimsical French name, a moufette would still smell as pungent – and so would I when the deed was done.

Both my cats were in the shrubs beside the garden, keeping an eye on moufette. They don’t appear really afraid of their second cousin; they loitered only a few yards away watching it, but I haven’t seen them trying to make its acquaintance, either. And when I call them, they gladly come running so I know they don’t trust him as far as they can smell him.

The rule of thumb with a moufette is simple: don’t push it. So I ambled out of the garden in the other direction, the cats following me; moufette went on his way over to the garden shed and lingered there. I’ve been hoping he lives far off in the woods and just drops in on occasion, but now I fear he’s making the cavity under our garden shed his home. I don’t think we’ll try flushing him out, though

Moufette sounds quite different than skunk, but some French words sound quite like our English version. For example, the verb puer (pew-eh). When a francophone says “ça pue!” likely we’ll comprehend. We probably borrowed it from them centuries ago – perhaps after some franco yelled, “Moufette! Arrète!” and some anglo, no comprendo, tried to chase the thing.

If our son-in-law happens to be around at the right time and happens to have his rifle along, perhaps moufette will meet his Waterloo. (Hopefully he’ll never know what hit him.) Otherwise no one here is going to even try shooing him off.

Oh, well, soon he’ll be thinking of hibernating and we won’t worry until spring. Speaking of which, I’ve read that skunks are lousy lovers. The male will gather three or four females unto himself come first snow and they’ll hibernate together, then when he gets hungry he’ll kill and eat the weakest of his wives — one by one. There are folks who like to portray Nature as a kind and gentle granny, but those people never mention skunk habits.

Nature doesn’t seem to recognize when enough is enough, either. It’s been dry for over a month so by now our yard is a wall-to-wall grasshoppers, two-inch-long ugly grey things. If moufette is dining on them, more power to him. Interestingly enough, they ate the marigolds and bean plants right down to bare stalks, but never touched the lettuce. What conclusion might one draw from that?

Unlike moufette, I tend to shy away from chemical warfare, but come next spring we’re going to conduct a serious campaign of genocide on the grasshoppers in this yard or we’ll be totally overrun next summer. An acquaintance told my husband that they’d had a bad infestation until lately when a little flock of grouse came around and spent about a week devouring the hoppers. So here’s hoping the grouse will find our place soon – they sure do when berries are ripe.

Someone said the swallows have left already, but we still have mourning doves and flickers in abundance. The sandhill cranes are overhead and in the nearby sloughs now – a sure sign of fall. They hang around here for about three weeks, gleaning leftover grain in the harvested fields, then move on. We’re privileged to live right in the middle of their migration route. They emit a kind of throb, a low tone glub, glub, glub, all evening long.

For the past few weeks I’ve been sewing dresses for my granddaughters in preparation for the start of school. Now their Auntie Carol has announced her engagement to a young man from Mississippi – the wedding date’s set for October 27th – so there’ll be more sewing for that event. And I’ve been sending my manuscript and graphics files to Friesen Press so my book can get into print before too long. I’m at the point of writing the back cover blurb now. Progress, slow but sure!


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