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Martha Adair was alarmed by the dashboard warning light and the smell of burning leaves coming from her car, but she didn't expect to find two young squirrels nesting in her engine compartment when she lifted the hood.
"When I did, up the popped," Adair, a Wheaton resident, recalled. "I screamed, because you don't expect to see two live animals."
The two squirrels then scampered back down into the engine. Martha's father, Jim, said he believes the mother must have built the nest in the engine compartment while the car was parked at Martha's place of employment.
However, Martha commutes five miles to and from work every day, and the squirrels appeared to be fairly mature.
So how long had the young squirrels been riding around in the car? And, how had the mother been able to keep the young squirrels fed as they commuted to and from her place of employment.
Nobody seems to be sure. Martha did leave the car standing for a week while she went on vacation the last week of April, but she used the car consistently up until the discovery on May 21, and she never parked in the same spot in her apartment complex's parking lot.
Jim tried to coax the squirrels out, but they just hid further down in the engine. They left the hood open over night, but the squirrels were still there in the morning.
Jim called the Wheaton police, and an officer came out with a pole. She couldn't get the squirrels out but managed to remove much of their nest. While the officer was working, she noticed wiring that appeared to have been chewed by the squirrels. A tow truck was called to take the vehicle to a dealership in Naperville.
Some time between the tow truck being called and the car's arrival at the dealership, the squirrels made a dash for freedom. Martha was happy that the squirrels weren't killed, but less thrilled about the $300 the affair cost her in towing and repairs.