Raccoon safe after climbing 25-storey Minnesota office tower
'Raccoons don't have very good impulse control,' Canadian expert observes
A raccoon that became an internet sensation by scaling a 25-storey office tower in downtown St. Paul, Minn., was safely trapped early Wednesday, and animal control officials released it back into the wild.
The caged raccoon looked a bit bedraggled but healthy after it was caught before dawn atop the UBS Plaza. Technicians took the animal down a freight elevator to a truck, according to Wildlife Management Services, which provides animal control services for St. Paul.
The animal was later released on private property near the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee, Minn.
"It's definitely a healthy raccoon. It's in good condition. It's eating normally," said Christina Valdivia, the company's general manager, who accompanied the technicians to the rooftop.
Minnesota Public Radio, which broke the story and closely followed the raccoon's climb from its headquarters less than a block away, branded the animal #mprraccoon.
At the 23rd floor, <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/mprraccoon?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#mprraccoon</a> takes a break <a href="https://t.co/ZPAFH6ZbJq">https://t.co/ZPAFH6ZbJq</a> <a href="https://t.co/36F7jiBb6r">pic.twitter.com/36F7jiBb6r</a>—@MPRnews
The raccoon's adventures caused a stir on social media as it scaled the tower Tuesday, with many Twitter users voicing concern for its safety or joking about the drama as its seemly death-defying climb was live streamed by several broadcasters. Valdivia said her mother-in-law saw it on the news in Chile.
The animal made it to the roof early Wednesday, where traps baited with cat food were waiting.
Lack of impulse control
Among those riveted was Suzanne MacDonald, a raccoon behaviour expert at York University in Toronto.
"Raccoons don't think ahead very much, so raccoons don't have very good impulse control," she said, admitting she could barely sleep she was so worried about the animal. "I don't think the raccoon realized when it started climbing what it was in for."
Initial speculation was that the raccoon climbed to a lower part of the building, frequented by pigeons, in search of bird eggs. But workers who tried to lure it down with a wooden ramp likely just scared it, said Phil Jenni, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota.
So it did what raccoons do when they're stressed: it climbed.
It's not unusual for raccoons to climb fairly tall trees and other structures, according to MacDonald and Jenni, though neither had heard of one climbing such a tall building before.
MacDonald said one raccoon got attention in 2015 after climbing 213 metres up a construction crane in Toronto. It safely climbed down on its own.
Jenni said the outpouring of concern online was encouraging, but he noted it's often best to leave wild animals alone.
"The narrative that developed was this raccoon was stranded and needed rescuing. I'm not sure that was true. It was behaving like a lot of raccoons do," he said.