Monday 17 December 2018

Raccoon released into wild after 25-storey tower climb

The animal was released on private property near the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee.

The raccoon scrambled along a ledge on the side of the building (Evan Frost/AP)
The raccoon scrambled along a ledge on the side of the building (Evan Frost/AP)

By Steve Karnowski, Associated Press

A raccoon that became an internet sensation by scaling a 25-storey office tower in the US has been safely trapped and released back into the wild.

The raccoon looked a bit bedraggled but healthy after it was caught before dawn on the UBS Plaza in St Paul, Minnesota.

Technicians took the caged raccoon down a freight elevator to a truck, according to Wildlife Management Services, which provides animal control services for the city.

“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.

The animal was later released on private property near the Twin Cities suburb of Shakopee.

The raccoon has a rest as it nears the summit (AP)

The raccoon’s adventures caused a stir on social media as it scaled the tower on Tuesday, with many Twitter users voicing concern for its safety or joking about the drama as its death-defying climb was livestreamed by several broadcasters. Ms Valdivia said her mother-in-law saw it on the news in Chile.

The animal made it to the roof early on Wednesday, where traps baited with cat food were waiting.

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.

The creature scurries up the UBS Plaza in St Paul (AP)

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 realised 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 probably just scared it, said Phil Jenni, executive director of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre of Minnesota.

So it did what raccoons do when they are stressed – and climbed.

It is not unusual for raccoons to climb fairly tall trees and other structures, according to Ms MacDonald and Mr Jenni, though neither had heard of one climbing such a tall building before.

Mr Jenni said the outpouring of concern online was encouraging but he noted it is 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.

Press Association

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