Minnesota News

Where were you 6 years ago when the MPR raccoon scaled a St. Paul skyscraper?

MPR staff, audience members share their memories

A raccoon scratches itself a window sill.
A raccoon scratches itself on the window sill of the Paige Donnelly Law Firm on the 23rd floor of the UBS Plaza in St. Paul on June 12, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

Where were you on June 12, 2018, the day a mottled brown raccoon climbed the 25 stories of the UBS Tower in downtown St. Paul?

Six years ago today, the #mprraccoon became a viral sensation and stole the hearts of millions online as people gathered to watch the critter climb the building for nearly 24 hours.

The drama began the day before, when the animal appeared in a niche in the wall of the Town Square building, on an outside wall of what was once the Donaldson’s department store at Seventh and Cedar streets.

Town Square building employees use a makeshift pole to rouse a raccoon.
Town Square building employees use a makeshift pole to rouse a raccoon from a ledge on the Town Square building in downtown St. Paul on June 12, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

MPR News may not have been the first to see the raccoon, but the newsroom's rapt attention got #mprraccoon trending online. Former MPR News journalists Tim Nelson and Evan Frost were dedicated to the story.

“Building maintenance came out and tried to build a little two-by-four scaffolding to the raccoon to try and get him down,” Nelson told host Tom Crann on All Things Considered in 2018. “Well, that didn’t work out very well. He climbed up the side of the building onto the roof. We celebrated, said this looks great, he is safe. And then he proceeded to climb even higher, 200-plus feet into the air on the side of the building.”

The raccoon, who we later learned was a “she,” scurried up the side of the UBS Tower, much to the dismay of onlookers, who called for help from the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota and St. Paul animal control.

After two days with no food or water, and a climb that had the internet holding its breath, the little raccoon was humanely captured on the UBS roof, lured in by a delicious can of wet cat food.

She was later released by Wildlife Management Services on private land in the southwest suburbs.

The #mprraccoon was caught in a live trap baited with cat food overnight.
The #mprraccoon was caught in a live trap baited with cat food overnight after scaling the UBS Tower in St. Paul and was picked up next morning by Wildlife Management Services.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2018

The DNR told MPR News that while getting up a high-rise is unusual, climbing is one of raccoons’ biggest survival instincts — though tree bark is a lot easier to sink your claws into than concrete.

Hollywood director James Gunn — whose film “Guardians of the Galaxy” featured a heroic, talking raccoon — offered to donate $1,000 to charity in the name of “anyone who saves this raccoon.” The critter’s viral status even got her a guest star credit on “The Late Show” with Steven Colbert.

Relive the highs and lows of the day with some of the coverage we featured of the little critter that could, as well as anecdotes from MPR staff and audience members like you! Drop us a note at tell@mpr.org

MPR Staff, audience members recall the day

We were walking over for coffee when we saw it laying in the corner of the skyway where some pigeons live. It was perfectly still with it’s fur blowing in the breeze. Honestly, we thought it was dead. We mentioned it to the Town Square security staff and they told us facilities was going to look into it. A short while later their facilities staff was using a LONG wood pole (looked like a wooden roof rake) to try to get the raccoon down. As you can imagine, it sprang to life and started crawling along the lower part of the building before climbing up onto the lower roof. Not sure why it decided to keep climbing up the tower, but the rest was well documented by our newsroom. It was pretty wild to watch social media explode with pictures and videos of our little neighbor.

Eamon Coyne, MPR broadcast engineer

I legit lost sleep. I was awake worrying about the raccoon.

Katie Graham, MPR traffic associate

I remember walking across the skyway and seeing the racoon. She was just above skyway level on the UBS building. Someone had put up a ladder to try and get the racoon down and I kind of thought “how is that going to work?” By the time I grabbed my sandwich and came back, the racoon was already moving up and away from her would-be rescuers. Later that week I interviewed by David Brancaccio about a survey we had recently done. He was calling from New York for the Marketplace Morning Report, and while we were getting ready he asked me all about what was going on with the racoon. (I thought he might air that instead of the survey results, but he did not.)

Craig Helmstetter, APM Research Lab managing partner

It was tough. It was hard to believe that things could end well for this furry little sweetheart, watching her go one way and then another, with no food or water and no great plan. When she made it, she became the poster child for anybody who has made a bad decision, gone the wrong the direction, but persisted and found their way to a solution, to survival and a successful end through sheer pluckiness. I got a call from China asking what we were doing to save the raccoon, and there was another call from Australia. Some people called us to suggest we offer a rope ladder to the raccoon.

Kristen Gay, MPR Member and Audience Services representative

I was the digital desk guy when we published the story on our website. I’ll be honest, didn’t think it was “top of the website” material. I thought: “It’s just a raccoon. They climb things.” Learned my lesson.

Matt Mikus, MPR News digital producer

It was a wild two days. I remember not getting much work done (I was an archive cataloger at MPR at the time) and getting a lot of texts from friends and family from as far away as London asking for on-the-ground updates.

Peter Ecklund, MPR associate project manager

I remember seeing the MPR raccoon on social media from all the way in Cleveland, Ohio, where I was an associate producer at the public media station. I was rooting for MPR raccoon the whole way!

Lisa Ryan, MPR News evening editor

I was working at another Carleton College in Northfield, getting no work done while I followed Twitter and any live video I could. By mid-afternoon, I closed all my social media tabs and stayed off until the next morning — I did not expect her to make it. I was just a few months into HRT, and I knew I wouldn't be able to stop crying if I saw a bad ending as it happened. I cried with relief the next day.

Lilith Bentley, MPR digital product designer

I was living in New York. I started to follow it on twitter and was distracted for hours. By the time I was producing an evening health show for the station I worked for, I was obsessed and hopeful for a successful rescue. An engineer in the studio made fun of me and I told him: “this little raccoon has captivated an entire country... this is a huge story.”

Jessica Bari, MPR News senior producer

I was working at my last job at Paradigm Education Solutions when I saw it near the top of Reddit’s /r/all!  It was the talk of the office!

Josh Hansen, MPR Member and Audience Services representative

I was a newspaper reporter in southeast Minnesota at the Austin Daily Herald and I remember seeing Twitter going crazy. I saw the raccoon and was like, “Wow, MPR Raccoon. What a cool story.” Never did I think I’d end up working for MPR. Maybe it was a sign from our legendary trash panda.

Hannah Yang, MPR News senior reporter, southwest Minnesota