An, er, damming film released this week shows how one Northwest wildlife agency actually has parachuted toothy critters into the backcountry.
Beavers, that is.
Discovered deep in the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s archives, “Fur For The Future” shows how the agency sought to spread some furbearers across the state, including by air.
About halfway through the 14-minute film, it shows men rigging wooden crates with ropes to parachutes, placing beavers inside the boxes and them being dropped out of a single-engine plane flying over an open valley in the mountains
A parachute blossoms, and on the ground, a beaver emerges from a crate, takes a Punxsutawney Phil-like look around, and waddles off to do what beavers do.
This all transpired back in the late 1940s.
A 1950 paper, Transplanting Beavers by Airplane and Parachute, by IDFG’s Elmo W. Heter, notes that the agency had moved problem beavers for years, with the benefit of establishing new populations for trapping and improving fish and wildlife habitat.
“In those states which are well populated and comparatively level, or have many miles of back country roads, the transportation of live animals is neither difficult nor expensive. In Idaho, the mountains, heavily forested country, lack of roads, and generally inaccessible wilderness areas have complicated the beaver-transplanting program,” Heter wrote.
So, IDFG took to the air.
The unusual mission was the subject of an article in The Atlantic three years ago, in which author David Ferry wrote:
Finding long, dusty overland trips too hard on the beavers, the department instead packed pairs of the animals into crates, loaded them onto airplanes bound for drought-stricken corners of the state, and dropped them by parachute. (The crates were rigged to open on impact.) The endeavor was apparently a success: a 1950 report notes that of the 76 beavers airdropped in the fall of 1948, only one fell to its death; the others began building dams and homes and founding colonies, which can grow as large as a dozen or so beavers.
And perhaps in doing so IDFG helped create the campfire stories of wolves being parachuted into the Northwest, sacks of flour being dropped to scare elk and choppers used to herd wapiti away from hunters.
Ahh, the stuff of legend.