What Cities Can Learn From a Highrise-Scaling Raccoon

In a rare moment of national solidarity, thousands of Americans came together last week to root for a raccoon who had scaled a 305-foot skyscraper in downtown St. Paul. Now that the trepidation is over (she made it!), some urban wildlife experts are calling it a teachable moment for America’s cities.

As it turns out, this wasn’t even the first incident of its kind.

In 2016, a baby raccoon named Scoop spent days stuck on the 4th floor window ledge of the Toronto Star offices in Canada before firefighters finally rescued it. Though baby Scoop didn’t make it all the way to the top, the entire operation elicited the same kind of nail-biting suspense that MPR raccoon did.

As urban areas bore deeper and deeper into natural habitats, these bizarre interactions with wildlife are only expected to increase. Is there anything cities can do to prepare?

Yes, says Joyce Hwang, architect and director of the Buffalo-based firm Ants of the Prairie. By ‘choreographing’ urban design with these interactions in mind, urban planners can help facilitate a more harmonious environment for both man and beast.

Take the example of parks, where humans inevitably share the space with birds. “If you design something in a way where there's ledges above a picnic area, you can be sure that there will be birds up there, which becomes a problem for the people,” she said. “But what if ... the habitable space is off to the side, [above] a garden or something that might actually benefit from bird droppings as fertilizer?”

Read more at CityLab.