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The Continuing Saga of the Baby Chipmunks

Okay so I mentioned before that we had chipmunks in our car. Turns out the car you leave at home when out gallavanting all over the place in the Airstream can turn into a cozy home for small woodland creatures. 


Yesterday morning we decided to do a nice Portland hike…part of the Wildwood trail that goes from Lower Macleay Park to Pittock Mansion. 5-6 miles, moderately hard, gorgeous day…perfect. Looks like this most of the way, and it's about two minutes from our house. Ridiculous that we don't do it more often:


We got to the car and there was a baby chipmunk on the back seat. Here he is, hiding next to one of my fold-up portable photo backgrounds in its case:


Okay then. We successfully shooed him out of the car. It looked at first like he scurried over under the truck, but we're pretty sure he just went and climbed right back up into the Camry. We decided it was time to get serious about this chipmunk business, and we figured out how to remove the fan underneath the passenger side dash to get to the air filter. Then we removed the glove box, and hey what d'ya know? A cozy chipmunk nest! 

Here's the fan, next to some of the moss and shredded air filter paper that had fallen into it from the nest:


And here's the air filter/chipmunk condo:


And here's what we found behind the glove box:


So we thoroughly cleaned everything out, saw no more sign of chipmunks, and decided we'd reinstall the fan and move the car over by the garage (and away from all the foliage, sort of) while we drove the truck to the trailhead for our hike. (Maybe we'd gotten them all out?)

This hike is gorgeous. The trailhead is right by the street we used to live on over in NW Portland, at Lower Macleay Park. Macleay Park has some interesting and colorful history:

Danford Balch was the original owner and settler of this area. He arrived in Oregon in 1847 and settled his donation land claim in 1850, carving out a space in the forest for a large cabin for himself, his wife, and their nine children. A nearby claim was taken by the Stump family. The two families did not care for each other. In true Shakespearean fashion, Mortimer Stump, the eldest son of the clan, began courting Anna, the oldest of the Balch daughters. Danford, a peaceful man, warned Mortimer to stay away from his fifteen-year-old daughter, but Mortimer paid no heed. When Anna turned sixteen, she and Mortimer ran away to Vancouver, Washington, where they eloped. Two weeks later, Danford took his shotgun and met members of the Stump family, including his new son-in-law, at the Stark Street Ferry. As the ferry was loading, Danford shot both barrels into Mortimer, who died instantly. Danford claimed the shooting was an accident, but was taken to jail, where he waited until the next spring to be tried. The jail being flimsy, he was able to break out. He hid out in the west hills near his farm until July, when he was re-arrested. In August, he was tried and convicted of the murder. On October 17, 1859 he was hanged at a public gallows in front of over 500 witnesses. The creek that runs through the property bears his name because for years after his hanging people still referred to the area as the Old Balch Place. (From Portland Parks & Rec)

We started on the Lower Macleay Trail and connected up to the Wildwood Trail and hiked up to Pittock Mansion (which is actually right down the street from our house). Gorgeous day, gorgeous hike, gorgeous view from Pittock Mansion:






The gardens up there are so pretty and you can wander around or sit on a bench and take in the city view. The Pittock Mansion was built in the early 1900s and is a gorgeous property! You can tour the inside for about 8 bucks, but we've already done that so we just hung out in the garden, got a drink of water, and headed back to the trail (yay! downhill! finally!) The hike is maybe 6 miles or so total, with quite a bit of uphill switchbacks to get to the top of the crest.


Structure back on the Lower Macleay Trail:


We stopped for lunch before heading back home, and as we pulled into our driveway…oh hey lookie what's on the driver's side dashboard of the Camry:


We opened the door and the chipmunk ran to the back seat. We were able to shoo this one out too, but same thing as earlier…he just found his way right back in from underneath.

We got the flashlight (well, the flashlight app on my iPhone) and we shined it into the exposed area behind the glovebox, and we could see one (and then two?)  little chipmunks climbing around in there. Mostly we just saw one, with quick glimpses of another poking his head out from the sidelines), as he hopped down onto the fan that we reinstalled, sniffed around, and then climbed back up into the dash…probably wondering where the heck his home went. I recommended to Kevin we remove the fan again and see if we could get this guy out during the "hop down to the fan" stage of his circuit. Fan removed. Perfect…the chipmunk came right out to see what was going on. I got a shoe box and we managed to corral him into said shoebox. Ta da! Get another box! Unforunately, Chipmunk No. 1 must have been the boldest, because the other two (we've now confirmed at least three) didn't come back out or make any noise for quite a while as we waited. (Or maybe they left? Hah. No.) In the meantime, Chipmunk No. 1 was scratching and moving around like crazy in the shoebox. We got a handful of the moss from the nest we removed from the dash and stuck it in the box and he calmed down immediately. Seriously…like 30 seconds later I opened the box and he was curled up with his eyes closed, all cuddled in the moss. SO CUTE.

(Sometime in here I called the Audubon Society to find out what time they opened this morning since it was after 6pm when we got the first chipmunk — 9am — they've got a wildlife care center and I knew they'd either take them in or give me info about what to do with 'em. )

Okay now, back to Chipmunks No. 2 and 3. Hey I know! The moss/nest calmed No. 1 so we put the air filter nest with moss into the second shoebox to see if that would lure the others out (smells like home!). Nothing happened for a while so we went inside. I gave Chipmunk No. 1 a little ramekin with water, and some sunflower seeds and some oats (after googling "What do baby chipmunks eat?). After a bit I went back out to the car, opened the door quietly, and waited a few minutes. Pretty soon I heard a quiet "plop" and saw Chipmunk No. 2 in the box. I quickly grabbed the lid, got him covered, and took him over to join his sibling in the other box and when I peeked a minute later, they were both curled up together in the moss. Awwww.

Back at the car, 5 minutes later, another quiet "plop" into the box. Chipmunk No. 3 joined up with Nos. 1 and 2. All three, curled up in the moss sleeping, like nothing happened. I woke 'em up to take this photo:


We thought that was likely all of them, but we left the box with the filter/nest in the car below the dash just in case there were any shy stragglers. A few more times in the evening I went out to check and there were no more chipmunks and no more sounds. 

Meanwhile, I had a Bogs boot box with a bunch of moss and three tiny chipmunks to hang onto until morning. I didn't want predators to get them, so I opened up the sliding door on the Traeger on the deck and put the box in there.


Here are a few more shots from this morning. I cut up some cucumber to see if they'd eat that (it was on the list), but so far they prefer the oats.


They just snuggle up all lumped together and they're adorable. I really wish there was a way to reunite them with their mother, but since they came from the car there's no burrow or anything that I can put them near so their mom could find them (and we can't have them just go back to the car!)


At about 9:30am this morning I took them over to the Audubon Society (right near where we were hiking yesterday) and into the Wildlife Care Center. I filled out a form, donated $20 bucks (since this is the second bit of wildlife they are helping us with and I LOVE that they're there). Once they had a chance to look at the little chipmunks, they told me they were just about old enough to go out on their own, and said that if there was a way to place this box exactly as-is but with a little hole cut in it (and a heated bottle in there for warmth) that the mom would likely find them, and if they were warm they wouldn't seek other shelter

I heated the bottle of liquid that they gave me and put it in next to the moss…


…and cut a little doorway in the end of the box…


…and I found a nice sheltered spot just up the hill a little from where the car was originally parked to place the box. 

Fingers crossed!! (I do think I heard the mom chirping (a lot) out there this morning really early (5:30am or so…I recorded it):

Listen to ChipmunkChirp

There's another crazy animal (probably a bird) sound in there intermittently along with the chipmunk chirps (along with the sound of the rain). Anyone know what that is?



    Oh no! Mama might be the one that was relocated to the hood of NE Portland! Thank goodness, that these little guys are ready to be on their own. They are so cute, though. Laura, great story and pics. Good grief, we wondered if you guys have any damaged wires and who knows what else and if it will continue to be a saga.

  2. I actually don’t think any of them were relocated…they seem to know how to very quickly get back in, and when we were over at my studio the one that “got out” had at least three hours while we were shooting to get back in, and I’m certain it did given what we saw in the driveway.

    No damage at all, remarkably. We could see a whole mess of wires when we opened it all up and there was no sign of any chewed anything besides a tiny bit of paper from the air filter where the nest was built in the first place. I think we got lucky!

  3. Great ending (I hope)! Thank you for being such compassionate people . . . they really are the cutest things!

    I had this happen to me 20+ years ago. My car was in the garage and hadn’t been run for only a couple days. I had no damage to any wiring but they pulled out insulation from the hood and nested in the fan. That’s livin’ in the country!

  4. The chipmunks are adorable…thanks for rescuing them. I’m sure they are a nuisance to your car (and to other people who can’t keep them outside), but I like to see them scurrying about when I’m out walking or hiking. The hike you have in this post looks incredible. I can’t wait to spend time in Oregon with all of the trees!

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