A daredevil raccoon that became an online sensation when it spent almost 20 nail-biting hours scaling a 25-storey office tower in Minnesota has been safely rescued and released back into the wild after making it to the top of the building unscathed.
The animal’s ascent on the outside of the UBS building in downtown St Paul city was watched across the world on social media on Tuesday, with updates on its progress posted regularly by the Minnesota Public Radio under the hashtag #MPRraccoon. Crowds also gathered at the scene to watch.
Despite widespread concern for its safety – as well as Spider-Man and Mission Impossible jokes – it reportedly reached the roof at 3am local time yesterday, where cat food was waiting inside a humane trap.
“It was heartbreaking to see yesterday,” MPR journalist Tim Nelson told the BBC after the racoon made it to safety. “We couldn’t imagine how this would end well for him.”
The animal’s brush with international fame began on Monday, when it was originally spotted on the roof of a nearby two-storey office block. It is believed to have been there for two days without food or water, before being removed by maintenance workers.
Rather than find safety on street level, however, it jumped over to the UBS Tower, one of the largest skyscrapers in the city, where it apparently began climbing the outside of the building – moving up, down, and sometimes sideways.
Grant Kamin (@GrantKamin)
#mprracoon was in good spirits earlier. @timnelson_mpr pic.twitter.com/wK2HzEh2bS
June 12, 2018
My picture from the 13th floor around noon. Hope he makes it down OK! #mprraccoon pic.twitter.com/gfVWysn9iO
June 12, 2018
The raccoon’s climb seemed gravity-defying to onlookers who gathered below, as it scaled the walls with seemingly little to grip to. As it reached the window ledge of each storey, it would often pause to take a break, and have a nap, delighting workers inside the building who posted video footage of it stretching and grooming itself.
James Gunn, director of the Hollywood film Guardians of the Galaxy, offered to donate $1,000 (£750) to charity if anyone could save the animal.
Tim Nelson (@timnelson_mpr)
The #mprraccoon just made it to the roof! Video courtesy @DPet_KARE11News pic.twitter.com/Wb5xPsANZh
June 13, 2018
But social media celebrated in the early hours of yesterday morning when the animal, which had been nicknamed “spider-raccoon”, finally reached the top of the building, where the city’s department of safety inspections set live traps for the raccoon on the roof of the building so it could be safely returned to ground level. “Here’s the #mprraccoon taking the easy way down, in a UBS Plaza freight elevator,” Nelson tweeted yesterday, alongside a picture of it in a cage. At lunchtime on Wednesday, a private contractor hired to catch it told Nelson they released it “on private property at an undisclosed location, after consultation with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center”. They posted a video of the release on their Facebook page:
Such positive attention for a raccoon is rare in the US, where they are largely viewed as pests. Emergency services receive hundreds of calls each year about aggressive raccoons breaking into apartments or preventing people from walking down the street. In May, a man in Michigan called the police after a family of raccoons crashed through the ceiling into his living room. In April, the NYPD received a number of calls from scared residents who believed they’d seen an escaped tiger wandering the streets of New York. It turned out to be a large raccoon.
“I was talking to a wildlife expert yesterday who said there might be a dozen or two dozen of these raccoons in every square mile here in Minnesota – they’re everywhere. But you don’t see them scaling office towers,” Nelson said, adding that him and his colleagues had been overwhelmed by the international reaction to their tweets about the raccoon.
“It’s kind of absurd that I took a couple of pictures of an animal that people usually hate and think is disgusting, and all of a sudden it has thousands of retweets and likes.”
This article was first published by The Guardian on 13 Jun 2018.