In 1948, the town of McCall, Idaho, had need to relocate their beavers. The town was expanding, and the beavers just weren’t going to make good neighbors, particularly where farming was involved. But, as the beavers had been recognized as contributing to a healthy ecosystem, a plan was made to relocate the shaggy mammals further into the woods and mountains.
The first attempts were not terribly successful from anyone’s standpoint. Fish and Game staff tried to move the beavers, in boxes, on horses or donkeys. The slow trip gave both animals time to become nervous and agitated by each other, plus required a second day of travel to reach their remote destination. Elmo Heter, who reported on the efforts at the time, described the friction as such:
“Older individuals often become dangerously belligerent. Rough trips on pack animals are very hard on them. Horses and mules become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers.”
So plan B, after horses aren’t working, is obviously to start dropping the beavers out of airplanes.
In preparation, they started dropping test weights with army surplus parachutes out of planes, until they felt they had a good design in place, which included a box that would open upon landing so that the beavers could deploy themselves into the forest without further assistance. Then they started repeatedly dropping one lucky test-beaver over and over, inspecting him for signs of injury or duress. After so many drops, he started crawling back into his box on his own, anticipating yet another test flight.
This brave beaver’s efforts were not in vain though. 76 beavers were eventually relocated in this manner, with only one fatality after a box somehow opened 75 feet above the ground. The test beaver was even “rewarded” by being dropped alongside three young females to start a brood with.
The next year Fish and Game staff hiked out to see how their transplants were doing, and all seemed to be thriving and establishing healthy colonies. The healthy animals, plus the relatively low per-beaver cost of the project, and most judged it to be a big success.
Note: I’ve clearly taken a bit more liberty with today’s illustration (unless this is the one unlucky beaver in his last moments?), although I’d like at least some credit for restraining myself from my first instinct of drawing our little aeronaut in flight goggles and a scarf.
Also, while most of these entries are for my 5-year-old, this one was shared by my 2-year-old as well. He seemed to get it the gist of it, aside from not knowing what a beaver is.
Source: Here’s why 76 beavers were forced to skydive into the Idaho wilderness in 1948 by Bec Crew, Running Ponies