In January, Boise State Public Radio carried news of an excellent piece of local wildlife knowledge: “More than 60 years ago, Idaho Fish and Game dropped beavers from a plane and parachuted into the backcountry of the state.”
It’s more complicated than it sounds. As residents moved to less populated parts of the state after World War II, Idaho began to have a bigger problem with the interaction between beavers and urban life. It was up to the Fish and Game department to come up with a relocation solution. And while they identified a mostly natural area perfect for rehoming the creatures, the site (the Chamberlain Basin, now known as the Frank Church River or No Return Wilderness Area) was difficult to access due to a lack of roads. Unfortunately, packing up the beavers and transporting them on horses or mules was deemed impossible — a report filed at the time said the animals “get creepy and quarrelsome” when loaded with the “struggling, smelly” live beavers.
Fortunately, Elmo Heter from the department had an idea. There was a surplus of parachutes after the war, so why not take advantage of that as an effective and affordable way to move beavers? “The estimated cost of dropping four beavers from an airplane was about $30 in 1948, which is about $294 in today’s dollars,” Boise State Public Radio reports. In the end, the Fish and Game Department designed a special drop box to allow the animals to travel safely, and 76 beavers eventually made the journey (with only one casualty).
When Boise State Public Radio reported on the initiative this year, it could initially only include maps from the drop boxes and some archival footage from the Fish and Game Department. This week, however, the ministry’s historian finally found a documentary about the project titled “Fur for the Future.” The project had been mislabeled and kept in the wrong box all these years. While the old film was understandably fragile, the Fish and Game Department had it restored and converted to a digital format…resulting in the jewel of a YouTube video above.