They say there's a bumper crop of squirrels nibbling away out there this year. Still, it seems as if Joan Kennedy of Bethesda has had more than her share of trouble.

It all started when her husband went to get a 50-pound bag of oiled sunflower seeds she'd left in the Volvo. The windows were down, and a squirrel was in the car, chewing to the point of surfeit. He chased it away, rolled up the windows and carried the remaining seeds into the house.

The next morning the squirrel was sitting on the side-view mirror, looking smug. "It wasn't until after a rainstorm when I went out to the car and it was flooded that I realized what had happened," Kennedy says.

There, in the rubber along every window, were tiny tooth marks, clear through to the metal. It was obvious: The squirrel now thought sunflowers grew in Volvos.

Repairmen patched the rubber around the leakiest window but were hesitant to do much more. They thought the squirrel was just going to come back. Their solution was simple: "Shoot it."

The advice was too awful for the Kennedys to consider. Instead, they left a window open at all times, figuring that eventually the squirrel would realize there weren't any seeds. It wasn't an ideal solution, since sudden rainstorms left the car soggy, but it beat the unthinkable.

And it seemed to work. So they took the Volvo in again. It cost more than $350, but finally the windows were good as new.

Then came the strange noises on the roof of the house. The little rodent was gnawing around the skylights, says Kennedy, who's convinced that one spiteful squirrel was doing the damage. The gutters were next, then the tulips. "But when it ate every one of our wisteria buds, that was the last straw," she says.

The Kennedys called for help. Pest control specialists trapped five Kennedy squirrels and took them to the country. So far, so good. "It must have been in the bunch they trapped," Kennedy says.

There's one other bit of good news in all this: The Volvo damage was covered.

"Geico didn't raise an eyebrow," Kennedy says. "They just said, 'This is a vandal case. You've been vandalized by a squirrel.' "