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How an anxious, lost raccoon conquered a Minnesota skyscraper — and our hearts

The internet sensation of the past 24 hours, explained.

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A distant cousin, perhaps.
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Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

Every once in a while, a story comes around that reminds us of the sheer power of grit and determination. This time, it is a raccoon that climbed a UBS Plaza building in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The saga of MPR Raccoon — or #MPRraccoon, as it became known on Twitter — began when people spotted a lonely raccoon stuck on the ledge of a building in downtown St. Paul, including employees of Minnesota Public Radio, who carefully documented his plight.

Tim Nelson, a reporter at MPR, said the building’s maintenance workers had tried to rescue the raccoon by building a makeshift ladder to try to lure it back down to the ground.

It didn’t work. Instead, the raccoon fled to a neighboring building — the 25-story UBS Plaza — and, in a high-stakes gambit, began scaling the side of the concrete tower with his little raccoon paws.

The raccoon made it about 20 stories, according to the New York Times, though it took a break along the way to stretch out and take in the views of downtown St. Paul.

The raccoon reportedly settled on the 23rd floor sometime late Tuesday afternoon for a nap. Animal control officials put food and a trap on the roof in hopes of enticing the raccoon a few stories up, according to MPR.

But otherwise, the raccoon just relaxed, impervious to (or maybe all too aware of?) the humans worried about the fate of a woodland creature best known for breaking into trash cans and having rabies. The hashtag #MPRraccoon began trending on Twitter, and parody accounts popped up. A local CBS affiliate set up a live stream, according to the Washington Post.

The raccoon finally stirred around 10 pm and began ping-ponging between stories, climbing up, then down, then back up.

Finally, the raccoon turned and climbed upward, reaching the top of the building in the early morning hours before dawn.

The raccoon scaled a 25-story building and got everyone to stop talking about North Korea, only to find itself in a cage eating cat food — but safe.

The confinement was temporary, however: The raccoon was released in a suburb of the Twin Cities, according to Wildlife Management Service, which posted the video of the animal’s scamper to freedom.

MPR Raccoon Release!

All we can say is WOW and thank you to everyone for all of the kind words and support surrounding our business. We are so proud to be a part of this journey and wanted to share safe the release of the #MPRraccoon ! She was released on private residential property in the southwest suburbs of the Twin Cities with permission from the homeowner. We did consult with the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota (WRC) prior to release and we had determined that the raccoon was safe to release. Again, thank you to everyone for your support!

Posted by Wildlife Management Services on Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The raccoon, it turns out, was a 2-year-old female, whom officials described to the New York Times as “a little skinny but in good shape,” though apparently a bit tired from the climb.

Experts said raccoons climb when they’re stressed. “Raccoons don’t think ahead very much, so raccoons don’t have very good impulse control,” Suzanne MacDonald, a raccoon behavior expert at York University in Toronto, told the Associated Press. “I don’t think the raccoon realized when it started climbing what it was in for.”

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