It was 1948, shortly following the end of the second World War. McCall, Idaho was attempting to expand its borders. New residents were in search of places to build their homes. The Payette Lake Region became a problem. What was stopping builders? Beavers. The solution? Skydiving, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Growing Pains & Terrorist Beavers
Beavers inhabited the area for centuries and were used to having the place to themselves. As soon as people started to try and take over, they made it clear how they felt about it. As a group, the beavers fought back. New homeowners watched as their irrigation systems, orchards and farming were ripped apart. Plans to expand had to stop until this problem was solved. It just wasn’t safe to ignore.
Wildlife Maintenance Benefits of Beavers
When local wildlife were too hostile, the Fish and Game Department became involved. Immediately, they were tasked with relocating the entire population of beavers. Popular opinion was that the move was that a new area would benefit from the beavers. Beavers serve an important purpose in wildlife maintenance and forestry efforts in that they help to establish water storage, their efforts further reduce the risk of flash floods and erosion, and they provide improvements to the habitats of other animals, like forested mammals, fish, ducks, and plant life.
Option 1: Trapping & Trucking Beavers
The only difficulty in the plan was in the implementation of the transplant. How would they move the beavers? As a result of the rugged nature of the Idaho backcountry, the process of relocating the beavers was going to be burdensome, to say the least. They would have to be trapped, placed in crates, and carted by a mule which in turn would mean that they would have to endure a lengthy journey. The journey would see the beavers subject to extreme heat and confined to the tiny space offered by the crate for hours on end. All of this would culminate in the beavers then being handed off to a conservation agent to be driven by truck until they reached an impassable region where they would once again be subject to a crate. This would go on until they achieved their final destination. At this point, the beaver’s will to continue its efforts in forestry preservation would be squashed as it would likely assume it had been moved to the ends of the Earth.
The humans knew a swifter more humane means of transplant would have to be imagined.
Skydiving Beavers: So Crazy, It Just Might Work
They put their heads together and soon after an idea came to mind. They would make use of World War II planes and leftover parachutes. Skydiving prices couldn’t be any lower.
In order for the humans to determine the outcome of their theory, they would need a test subject. Enter an elderly beaver affectionately named Geronimo. Geronimo would serve as the first test flight beaver and his ability to not only survive the beaver drop but to additionally be unaffected following it would indicate whether or not the beaver transplant would ultimately be a success.
Geronimno the Test Beaver
Geronimo was to be placed inside a rectangular shaped box, the box was designed with weights distributed so that it would fall accordingly and not list or tip in the process, but still light enough that it would land softly. Not nearly as safe as tandem skydiving, but it would have to do. The heroic beaver would be flown to an elevation of roughly 150 meters and pushed out of the airplane, where his parachute would help him to land securely onto an open field where a conservationist would be waiting to assist him should the trap door not open and allow for his escape.
76 Relocated With One Exception
The brave beaver endured the drop over and over again and each time he would scramble out of the box with little to no indication anything out of the ordinary had occurred. Thanks to the groundbreaking efforts of the human conservationists, 76 beavers were relocated securely with only one casualty suffered. One of the beaver boxes opened after leaving the plane and the tiny animal was able to scurry to the top of the box, but being nervous and unsure of his airborne surroundings as opposed to attempting to wait atop the box until landing, he either fell or leapt.
As a reward for his valorous efforts, Geronimo was awarded by being transplanted with three young female beavers so as to embark on a new and exciting life in the promised land.
All’s Well That Ends Well
A year later, the humans returned to check on the beaver populations and discovered that despite being dropped in an entirely unknown environment, they had established dams, built lodges, had created a food storage and reproduced. Conservationists also determined that the sky drop of animals greatly reduced the cost of previous relocation efforts.
Making use of sky drops still occurs to this day although generally it is done on a much larger scale and by implementing much more innovative procedures and equipment. Who knows what innovations would have come to pass had the revolutionary efforts of one radical skydiving beaver not been put into practice.