Thousands of concerned citizens around the world who watched, waited and hoped for the best for the plucky raccoon that scaled a St. Paul skyscraper Tuesday, woke up Wednesday to news of a happy ending.
She made it.
The scrappy critter completed his climb in the cover of darkness and reached the roof of the UBS Plaza about 2:30 a.m., said Laurie Brickley, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections, which includes Animal Control.
Technicians from Wildlife Management Services carried the 1-year-old female from the top of the UBS Plaza and will release it in an undisclosed location, said company general manager Christina Valdivia.
The furry animal is “all good and healthy,” said Chelsey DeMers of Wildlife Management.
The animal had stopped Tuesday afternoon for a nap just two stories below the UBS Plaza roof, where animal control officials set up traps with food in hopes of luring him in.
“We don’t want to scare him,” Brickley said, “The best thing is to leave him alone.”
As afternoon turned into evening, the mottled brown raccoon’s journey was the most talked-about story online. Photos and videos of the animal grappling the pebbled concrete building prompted pleas from onlookers to rescue the masked dumpster diver.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter quipped on Twitter: “Even wild animals know @cityofsaintpaul is a great place to reach for higher heights. We’re working with staff & building owner to find a way to help #MPRraccoon without further endangering it or staff by scaring or making it feel threatened.”
The saga began around 11 a.m. Tuesday when the raccoon was spotted hunkered down on a ledge a few stories above street level at the Town Square Complex on the 400 block of Cedar Street. It later scurried next door to the UBS Plaza and slowly climbed the skyscraper, captivating downtown workers as it went.
Brickley said that she thought the raccoon might be camped out on the ledge overnight but it was on the move once the sun went down, climbing to a vent above the ledge before backing its way down to the 17th floor as of press time late Tuesday night.
Generally the size of a small dog, raccoons have grown used to living near people in their search for food. The state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) estimates that up to 1 million of them live in Minnesota.
Strong claws and feet help the animals climb with ease — though it appears to be unusual for the masked critters to scale a building like this during the light of day.
“They have long fingers and a lot of dexterity for grabbing hold of things,” said John Erb, a DNR wildlife research scientist based in Grand Rapids, Minn. Raccoons are notorious for making nests to raise their young in elevated spots like tree cavities, barns and attics.
Erb speculated that St. Paul’s new hero could have been chased, lost or simply scared into ascending the building. “It sounds like it found itself in an awkward spot,” he said. “Something could’ve spooked it and it started to climb. … People may have prevented it from backing its way down.”
He recommended that onlookers keep away from the building so the animal could retreat overnight. Attempts to rescue it could cause it to panic and, ultimately, to fall.
“People leaving it alone will allow a quiet, undisturbed time to let it get away,” he said.
Thousands of people followed developments after Minnesota Public Radio first tweeted on it. Said one person in a tweet: “Oh my gosh this is so stressful. Come on, little buddy!”
As the day and night wore on, TV news stations started livestreaming its quest and national news outlets like CNN, the Washington Post and Vice picked up the story. Hollywood director James Gunn, whose action flick “Guardians of the Galaxy” starred the animated gun-wielding Rocket Raccoon, offered a $1,000 donation in the name of “anyone who saves this raccoon. I can’t handle this. Poor dude.”
By late Tuesday afternoon, the raccoon became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter and the nocturnal creature had at least three Twitter accounts in its name attracting hundreds of followers. The @TheStPaulRacco1 fake fan account hilariously recounted how the critter — likely — got himself in this predicament.
Its first message to the world: “I made a big mistake.”
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768 Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648