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Aline Newman
Wildlife Storyteller

            Chipmunks are smarter than you think. One day my husband, Neil, and I heard a strange noise we had never heard before. It was a weird Chuck! Chuck! Chuck! coming from our detached garage and so loud that we heard it from inside the house, with all the windows closed. Curious, Neil and I both hurried outdoors. 

            Neil set up the ladder in the garage and checked under the eaves. Nothing. He searched our makeshift storage loft. Still nothing. I checked our big, birch tree. Nada.

            “It sounds like an animal calling for help,” I said, afraid of sounding ridiculous.
            “I’ve been thinking the same thing,” Neil answered.
            But what kind of animal, and where was it?

            Searching for the source of the sound, Neil focused on a garage window he had boarded up years before. Where the window met the wall, there was a narrow gap. Could some little creature have fallen inside the partition? Neil held a mirror above the gap and shone a flashlight into the space between the plywood and the vinyl siding, while I squinted into the opening.

            “It’s a chipmunk!” I yelled. “I can see its yellow fur and black stripes.” The chipmunk lay flat on its stomach about halfway down the partition. It was wedged in so tightly it couldn’t move. Neil grabbed a crowbar and pried out the plywood as much as he dared without ruining the siding. No good. The chipmunk remained trapped. “Maybe you could cut a hole,” I suggested.

            Neil attached a hole cutting bit to his electric drill. As the drill whirred, I held my breath. Not only did Neil have to be careful not to damage the siding. If we had guessed wrong about where to drill, he might kill the helpless animal. The first hole proved too high up. Neil drilled a second hole closer to the floor. 
            And that did it! A little, pudgy-cheeked head popped out. Neil and I exchanged high fives as we watched the newly freed chipmunk jump out and scamper away. 

            Later, I searched online for noises chipmunks make and found that exact “Chuck, Chuck” sound on a National Geographic YouTube video. Scientists say it’s an alarm call used by chipmunks who fear being attacked by a raptor, like an owl, eagle, or hawk. But our chippie, at least, knew to use it when he faced trouble of another kind. 

A crowbar and the boarded-up window in our garage, where the strange sounds seemed to be coming from. Photo by Aline Alexander Newman
Neil holding a mirror and shining a light into a gap in the partition to see if an animal is trapped inside. Photo by Aline Alexander Newman
Can you see them? The black stripes on the back of a trapped chipmunk are just barely visible. Photo by Aline Alexander Newman
The chipmunk peers out of the hole Neil had drilled. Photo by Aling Alexander Newman.


​Aline Alexander Newman is a permanently certified teacher and the author of seven animal books for children, all published by National Geographic Kids. LUCKY LEOPARDS tells three true stories of amazing animal rescues. Included are a pair of clouded leopard kittens stolen from their mother, a stranded green sea turtle, and a loon tangled up in fishing line. Personalized copies of LUCKY LEOPARDS and Aline’s other books are available at, as is information on her in-person school visits, which excite kids and get them happily reading and writing. 
Aline is also a member of Authors on Call. Bring her into your classroom via interactive video conferencing. Here’s where you can learn more about her and her programs. 

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