Star raccoon reaches roof of St. Paul skyscraper

Stock SectorJune 13, 201817min11
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A plucky raccoon scaled a downtown St. Paul building early Wednesday after mesmerizing workers and internet watchers across the world.

The critter stopped for a nap just two stories below the UBS Tower roof, then headed back down around 2:30 a.m. before going to the top, where animal control officials had set up traps with food in hopes of luring him in and ensuring a safe and happy ending.

The beloved raccoon remains a free and safe critter this morning, as far as we all know.

“We don’t want to scare him,” said Laurie Brickley, a spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Safety and Inspections, which includes Animal Control. “The best thing is to leave him alone.”

As afternoon turned into evening and then morning, 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 Tower 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 again Tuesday night, climbing to a vent above the ledge before beginning to back its way down. But hours later, about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, the raccoon reached the roof, according to a live feed from KARE-11.

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 can be found 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.

At 8 p.m., the raccoon was still high above the city, with thousands of people following 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!”

Since then, WCCO TV started livestreaming its quest and national news outlets like CNN, the Washington Post and Vice have 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.”

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