We went into town this week to do our laundry, get groceries, and buy some more supplies to help with the ongoing mouse wars. As we arrived back at camp, the gentleman in the next campsite waved and strolled over.
“You folks don’t have a pet chipmunk, do you?” he asked, quite casually. This was the first time we had spoken since he and his family had arrived and set up camp. This seemed like an odd way to meet.
“No, we don’t have a pet chipmunk. Why do you ask?”
“Because I saw one sitting in the window of your trailer. It looked like it was trying to get out. Chewing through the screen. But the window was closed. Here, I have a picture of it on my phone.”
And sure enough, he did. A quite clear photo of a small wild rodent, calming sitting on the frame of our bedroom window, enjoying the view from inside our trailer.
It sure looked like a chipmunk. Actually, I thought it was most likely a golden-mantled ground squirrel. But most folks call them chipmunks. This did not seem like a good time to be pedantic about exactly what the wild animal inside our trailer actually was.
We mentioned that we had been fighting mice for about a week. And that yesterday we had returned to find a hole chewed through a screen and tiny, dusty footprints on the furniture. But no chipmunks—nor ground squirrels, golden-mantled or otherwise.
This was a surprise yesterday. Today’s news, with its clear photographic evidence, was—alarming. Now we had an even bigger rodent problem.
Thanking our camp neighbor for the concern and information, we cautiously opened the trailer, prepared to find a nasty disaster. In the main living area, we found more dusty footprints on the furniture, but little other evidence of an intruder. We thought the chip-squirrel might possibly still be locked inside our bedroom, wreaking havoc.
Passing through the bathroom toward the bedroom, we noticed signs of gnawing on a cabinet panel near the floor. This was new since our departure this morning. The teeth marks were too big to have been made by mice. Chipmunk, golden-mantled ground squirrel, or chupacabra, it might still be just on the other side of our bedroom door, waiting to pounce.
I thought it might be wise to take our 80-pound dog, Toby, along when I opened the bedroom door. Normally, he isn’t allowed in the bedroom, since there really isn’t any space for him in there that we aren’t already using. Such is life in 200 square feet.
But Toby was having none of me tugging on his leash, gesturing toward the door.
“I think he’s resisting because he knows he isn’t supposed to be in there,” I said to Val.
“Or, maybe he senses something in there that he doesn’t want to deal with,” she replied.
The chupacabra theory began to seem more plausible.
Armed with a broom, I opened the bedroom door, prepared to defend myself against an attack. None came. How cunning this animal is, I thought. Waiting for me to turn my back on it before leaping toward my jugular vein.
Later, sitting outside enjoying the sunset and a cocktail, I congratulated myself on surviving the ordeal. Apparently, the chip-squirrel-acabra had chewed its way out of our trailer before we returned. It left behind lots of tiny dusty footprints, a large pile of torn window screen material, and a few droppings.
Val had swapped the damaged window screen in our bedroom for the undamaged screen in the dining area. That would allow us to sleep with a refreshing breeze and still keep the bugs out. But when she walked around to that side of the trailer a short time later she noticed a fresh hole chewed through the screen, right where the other had been.
We both looked at the fresh damage, looked for other evidence, and concluded that the devious rodent had not chewed its way out before we returned home that day. It had stayed somewhere inside, hiding, waiting for us to stop looking for it, and then chewed a fresh hole in the replacement screen and climbed out the window.
Clever little bugger.
That left us fighting merely the mice. They seemed particularly active that night. As usual, Val had difficulty sleeping with all the sounds of small footsteps coming from dark recesses of the trailer. I managed to carry out my duties as the designated snorer.
Around dawn, the disturbing sounds increased and we were both awake. Then Toby began to get restless. I got up, put on some clothes, and prepared to take him outside to relieve himself.
Toby seemed fixated on some storage baskets near the floor. And I heard a noise coming from them.
Chupacabra, almost certainly. I grabbed the broom.
I moved one of the storage baskets and a small, brown animal ran across the floor, jumped up on the sofa, and then dove underneath the bench. But not before stopping to turn and look at us while we had a good clear look at it.
It was certainly a chipmunk.
And it just wanted to get outside of our trailer, preferably without getting trapped and needing to chew through any more window screens.
Having established a unanimous common goal, we came up with a plan for a chipmunk departure. Val stood ready with Toby, and a broom, to keep the rodent corraled. I walked around outside the trailer and dropped the rear ramp, then opened the big screen curtains.
Back inside the trailer I lifted the bench where the chipmunk was hiding. It looked up at me, glanced at the big opening to freedom, and ran across the room and underneath the opposite bench.
I moved the dining table out of the way, lifted the second bench, and saw the chipmunk huddled between Val’s motorcycle boots. She handed the broom to me and I gently prodded the boots. The chipmunk didn’t like that. Thankfully, it didn’t channel its inner chupacabra and lunge at my throat. It dove through the open screen curtain, ran down the ramp, leapt off the end, ran to the top of a rock, turned to have a last look at us, and disappeared into the brush.
We closed the ramp, locked it, and started brewing coffee.