The Story Behind Idaho's Parachuting Beavers


| LAST UPDATE 09/21/2021

By Eliza Gray
idaho state parachuting beavers
Heinz Hudelist/imageBROKER via Shutterstock

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a... beaver? That's right, over 70 years ago, conservationists made a bold decision in efforts to relocate the pesky rodent to more suitable environments. And it definitely turned some heads.

idaho footage parachuting beavers
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Back in the 1940s, the State of Idaho found itself between a rock and a hard place due to migration trends from the city center to the rural southwest. Idahonians searched for a more peaceful life and ditched the metropolis for quieter country living, but they weren't alone. The region was swarmed with beavers, and they didn't make for such great neighbors. It didn't take long for the Fish and Game Department to start receiving calls from perturbed residents. On occasion, beavers' wood-munching and dam-building habits resulted in flooded yards, toppled trees, and other forms of property damage. But what was the solution?

animal conservation history beavers
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Experts within the department recognized the critical impact that the mammal had on the surrounding environment and didn't want to take harmful measures to eradicate the population. According to National Geographic, a healthy beaver population can have a number of benefits for humans, including water stability and reduction in erosion. However, residents were unhappy, so wildlife experts began a process, described by a State Department employee in a 1950 Journal of Wildlife Management article as "arduous, prolonged, expensive, and resulted in high mortality."

idaho beaver population management
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So the solution? A reported 76 beavers were parachuted into the dense Idaho forest on August 14, 1948. The method required some trial and error. However, the overall speed and cost-effectiveness benefited the department, the angry residents, and the beavers themselves. And while the method proved worthwhile, it, unfortunately, resulted in one beaver casualty and would not be repeated. "We still use aircraft extensively in the backcountry, but helicopters are [now] the preferred aircraft for this type of work and would not require parachuting," explained one of the department's spokespeople.

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As a one-off, the great beaver parachute of 1948 changed the narrative of wildlife conservation and harm-reduction in relocation. And thanks to archival work in Idaho, the footage and interviews haven't been lost over time. Be sure to check back soon for more interesting stories from the past.