Conservation strategies can take on a wide variety of shapes and forms – sometimes they’re scientific breakthroughs or well-planned reintroduction programs; and other times, they are, well, parachuting beavers.
Yes, you read that right.
During the 1950s, in one of the most peculiar conservation efforts, beavers in Idaho were parachuted from planes to aid in repopulation efforts. Here’s the fascinating story.
The Problem: Beaver Overpopulation
Post World War II, Idaho faced a conundrum. With the growth of human settlements and the rise in agriculture, the state found that some regions had an overpopulation of beavers.
These industrious animals, known for their dam-building abilities, often clashed with human development. Their dams would flood roads and farmland, creating challenges for the human inhabitants of the area.
At the same time, other remote regions of Idaho suffered from a lack of beavers.
Historically, beavers played a pivotal role in these ecosystems, creating wetlands that benefited various forms of wildlife. Without them, these ecosystems began to degrade.
The Solution: Aerial Beaver Relocation
To address this imbalance, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) devised a novel solution. Why not relocate the beavers to the regions where they were needed?
But there was a hitch. Many of these areas were so remote that traditional methods of transportation were unfeasible.
Enter Geronimo, the beaver that would pave the way for a unique conservation strategy. As a test subject, Geronimo took several flights, gently floating down via parachute to ensure the safety of the process. After repeated tests (and presumed beaver approval), the IDFG decided to move forward with their parachuting beaver operation.
Operation Beaver Drop: Parachuting Beavers into Idaho
The process was relatively straightforward, albeit unorthodox. Beavers were trapped in overpopulated areas, placed inside protective boxes, and attached to parachutes. An airplane would then fly over the designated release area, and these furry engineers would descend to their new homes.
Between 1948 and 1950, this project saw the successful relocation of over 70 beavers. The majority of them adapted quickly to their new environments, immediately setting to work building dams and establishing new colonies.
The parachuting beaver strategy, despite its odd nature, was deemed a significant success. The relocated beavers transformed the landscapes, aiding in the creation of wetlands and benefiting countless other species in the process. Birds, fish, and mammals found better habitats thanks to the beaver’s natural dam-building tendencies.
Other states didn’t adopt the parachuting strategy (due in part to the development of better transportation methods and roads). But it showcased the lengths to which conservationists were willing to go to ensure the survival and prosperity of a species.
Revisiting the Tale of Parachuting Beavers
For many years, the tale of Idaho’s parachuting beavers was considered an exaggerated myth of the West. That was until 2015, when a film from the IDFG archives was rediscovered. This film, titled “Fur for the Future,” documented the entire process, turning local legend into verifiable history.
Suddenly, a story that sounded like a tall tale had evidence to back it up, and it captured the imagination of people worldwide.
Check it out: