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Free-climbing raccoon's journey comes to an end atop St. Paul building

A raccoon rests on a window ledge on the 22nd floor of the UBS building in downtown St. Paul on Tuesday, June 12. The raccoon had scaled much of the building and was on the second-from-top floor Tuesday afternoon. Tad Vezner / Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL -- Amid thousands of inaudible Internet sighs, the raccoon who reached amazing heights in downtown St. Paul got a well-earned rest Wednesday morning.

Snacking on smelly, wet cat food, the raccoon that offered a nation a split-second of respite sat in a cage atop UBS Plaza, whose final, 23rd story it had scaled about 3 a.m.

UBS’s management contracted with Brooklyn Park-based Wildlife Management Services to trap the animal, who was in good health, according to the firm and city officials.

Wildlife Management Services posted video Wednesday showing the raccoon being released onto private land in the southwest metro.

Valdivia said the roughly 1-year-old female raccoon did not appear hungry or thirsty -- it had glutted on pigeon eggs at some point Monday, when it kicked the whole saga off by getting stuck on a ledge.

“We’ve been getting calls and texts from all over the country and the world,” St. Paul mayor Melvin Carter said at an impromptu press conference Wednesday morning. “This proves St. Paul is the place to take a risk and reach new heights.”

"Somebody texted me this morning: ‘We needed this win,’" Carter added.

The little raccoon’s story began Monday when several downtown Twitter users snapped photos of the animal stranded on a second-story ledge near the Seventh Street skyway and Cedar Street, where it had apparently found a pigeon nest.

Late Tuesday morning, maintenance employees of St. Paul’s Town Square building tried to tempt the raccoon down with an impromptu plywood pole, but the critter was having none of it.

Instead, the spooked animal began scaling the slightly-curved edifice of the building, not stopping until it reached UBS’s 22nd floor, where it began licking the window of a swanky office. It napped for several hours on the window ledge before moving up and on, this time scaling to the 23rd floor -- the last remaining floor with windows, or ledges. Above it, rather than the slightly-curved spaces it had previously climbed, rose an expanse of flat stone.

In the meantime, officials with the city’s animal services department decided that a live trap on the roof, baited with food, would be best. Anything more might further spook the beast.

“And we’ll hope animals do what animals do,” said Department of Safety and Inspections spokeswoman Laurie Brickley.

News crews assembled, and gazed up at the animal through the night, occasionally bathing it with spotlights. Around 11 p.m. it began to descend, ever so slowly, but by the 17th floor decided against that route.

Minnesota Pubic Radio staffers managed to snag naming rights for the animal -- inundating the Internet with the Twitter hashtag #MPRRaccoon, which promptly caught on. MPR’s offices face the space where the animal was originally stranded, and at least one staffer began tweeting concern for the animal as early as Monday. On Tuesday, employees occasionally stepped outside to further document the animal’s ascent to greatness on Twitter.

By 6:30 p.m., the hashtag was Twitter’s No. 1 trending topic and was also popular on Instagram.

Finally, in the early-morning hours, the raccoon scampered to the roof, scaling the several-meter long flat surface before reaching the edge and disappearing. After several hours, and hundreds of baited-breath Twitter inquiries, UBS’s management tweeted a photo of the animal, and noted it was alive and well.

"The falcons were circling like crazy," a security staffer at the tower said, noting two active falcon nests on nearby highrises.

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