The Minnesota raccoon watched ’round the world [videos]

It started with a Facebook note from local Twin Cities actor Josh Carson in my feed: “Wait — is all of downtown St. Paul just watching to see if a raccoon will die!?”

I instantly hopped on Twitter (@birdchick) for the scoop to see if one of my actor friends was commenting on wildlife. I opened it up, checked what was trending, and at the top was the hashtag #MPRraccoon. Tim Nelson, a reporter for Minnesota Public Radio, had taken an interest in the critter as it seemed to be hanging around the MPR building, perhaps attracted to the many pigeon nests and chicks tucked around the St. Paul skyway system. Concerned that it hadn’t left a ledge about 20 feet off the ground and had no access to food or water, building workers attempted to help scoot it away.

But the raccoon was having none of it, and did what raccoons do when they feel threatened: climb to safety. Only instead of climbing a tree, this critter decided to climb the 25-story USB building. After it made it past the fifth floor, Twitter went wild and it became a top news story not only on MPR but stations around the world. It wasn’t long before local station WCCO decided to do a live cam. CNN  BBC and other worldwide news sources checked in on its status. Celebrities were tweeting their support for the ultra-common urban animal.

I have to admit, watching a raccoon climb up 20 stories, clinging to the wall like Spiderman, was amazing. I’ve seen squirrels climb stucco and brick with ease, but I haven’t seen a raccoon do that before. This animal certainly had the skills to cling, but 20 stories is quite the undertaking. Someone even put its climbing antics to the Mission Impossible theme.

The raccoon eventually took refuge on a window ledge, and soon up-close pictures of the snoozing mammal flooded social media. I was flooded with questions online and learned that people still confuse Minneapolis and St. Paul, don’t understand how skyscrapers work, or the risks of catching a wild, potentially surly raccoon.

“Why don’t they open a window so it can crawl in?”

Because windows on skyscrapers do not open.

“Why don’t you cruel people use a glass cutter to open it and grab the raccoon?”

Because the sound of the glasscutter would frighten it, and in its attempt to stress-flee, it might fall.

“Why don’t you use a window washer well to get some firemen to rescue it? I have a friend who is a window washer he can help!”

Again, the raccoon may get scared and flee and in its panic just fall. And … do you know how many diseases are transmittable from raccoon to human? It’s dangerous for people and the raccoon.

The raccoon caught a nap while a crowd gathered below and on social media. As nighttime descended, dedicated reporters and camera crews were in for the long haul to see what the raccoon would do.

At about 10 p.m., the raccoon began to climb down. I figured I would go to bed and wake up to a triumph of the animal scurrying down and into the sewer it came from or … of tragedy as witnesses describe its accidental plummet to the sidewalk.

Instead I woke up to the news that the raccoon changed its mind and climbed to the roof of the USB tower. Not long afterward, the creature found a trap full of canned cat food and was apprehended.

After some food and a quick exam it was discovered to be a 2-year-old female raccoon in relatively good health and she was released in an undisclosed backyard in Shakopee. For folks outside Minneapolis-St. Paul, that’s south of the Minnesota River, so she’s got a long hike back to any skyscrapers.

On the one hand, I love in this tumultuous political time that so many people from so many different backgrounds came together over a Spiderman-like raccoon that did the seemingly impossible. On the other hand, I wonder what millions of bluebirds, ducks, herons, chickadees, cardinals and robins would say to the world cheering on arguably the top nest predators out there. I also think of all the people who ask for me for advice on how to remove raccoons who are raiding their feeders, including tips on trapping and releasing or just plain killing them. Perhaps this raccoon started out in someone’s yard and pilfered one too many black oilers and was transferred to a nearby city park. Confused, she found herself on a building going for pigeons and then on top of the world in downtown St. Paul.

Rest easy, #MPRraccoon. May you find easy living in a Shakopee backyard.

Categories: Minnesota Videos, Nature, Sharon Stiteler

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