Legend of #mprraccoon lives on in $41,000 donation to wildlife rehab center

Four green herons were released Thursday.
Four green herons, rescued as chicks and brought to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota earlier this year, were released Thursday by Tim Nelson, Angie Andresen and Lilly Marek of MPR.
Courtesy Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

The raccoon that climbed an office building in downtown St. Paul may be living in the wild, but she now has a legacy in Roseville.

The Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota announced Thursday that it had received a $41,000 donation from Minnesota Public Radio, the proceeds of thousands of T-shirts bought online by fans of the social media-tagged "MPR Raccoon." The raccoon received attention from her Twitter hashtag, #mprraccoon, in June as the animal started her unlikely journey 23 stories up the concrete face of a 1970s era office tower.

A raccoon stretches out on a windowsill high above downtown St. Paul,
A raccoon stretches out on a windowsill high above downtown St. Paul, Minn. on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News File

The raccoon eventually reached the top safely.

MPR rolled out a pair of #mprraccon T-shirts online and offered a similarly themed tote bag to members in days following the plucky feat. MPR also pledged proceeds from the shirts to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. A statement from MPR Thursday said fans bought more than 3,300 of the shirts online in a matter of days.

"I think the scale surprised me, though," said Phil Jenni, the head of the wildlife center. "And I think it's also the power of public media that it got picked up like that. People were sending me copies of articles from Switzerland and Chile. It was amazing."

He said he never imagined it would bring in a five-figure contribution to his center, which has an annual budget of about $1.3 million.

Jenni announced the gift at the marsh-side release of four green herons, rescued as chicks and brought to the center earlier this year. He called it a fitting occasion to celebrate for the nonprofit, which takes in about 13,000 animals a year — including the occasional wayward raccoon.

This week, the center's staff decided the quartet of green herons were sufficiently grown and ready to fend for themselves. Jenni said that, like the raccoon, they're not exactly a celebrity species.

Four green herons were released Thursday.
Four green herons, rescued as chicks and brought to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota earlier this year, were released Thursday.
Courtesy Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota

"Everybody knows the great blue herons because you see them," Jenni said. "They're much more visible. The green herons are very secretive and you don't really see them very much. They're more of a marsh bird. They're very camouflaged. In all these cases released today, all four of the herons released today were brought to us ... at the end of June. Most of them have been with us for about a month and a half now."

They emerged cautiously from pet carriers set on a boardwalk at the Harriet Alexander Nature Center. And then all four flew away into the marsh.

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