Video: Beavers parachuting out of airplanes in Idaho.

Watch Parachuting Beavers Get Thrown Out of Airplanes in Idaho

Watch Parachuting Beavers Get Thrown Out of Airplanes in Idaho

The Slatest
Your News Companion
Oct. 27 2015 12:51 PM

Finally, Irrefutable Evidence That Beavers Really Did Parachute Out of Airplanes in Idaho

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One small step for beaver, one giant leap for beaverkind.

Photo by KOCA SULEJMANOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

In 1948, Geronimo the beaver was captured in McCall, Idaho, coaxed into a wooden box, loaded onto a plane, and then dropped midair, parachute attached, landing in Idaho’s backwoods. The beaver emerged from the incident unscathed, but his life would forever be changed. Now, he would reside in the lakes and streams of Idaho’s mountain meadows, building dams and improving his surroundings for the good of all wildlife.

Geronimo was the first experiment in an unusual wildlife management technique that the Idaho Department of Fish and Game undertook more than 50 years ago. (You might say he was their guinea pig, except he was a beaver.) For years, rumors persisted about the mythical program the department used to relocate “problem beavers” who had been chewing up people’s property in the 1940s and ’50s. But this week, the department released irrefutable video evidence that Beavergate did in fact occur.

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For this charming film footage, titled “Fur of the Future,” we can thank game historian Sharon Clark, who recovered the lost video with help from the Idaho Historical Society, according to Boise Public Radio.

The grand experiment set out to capture beavers by luring them into underwater traps with fragrant camphor oil. Then, the rodents got the ride of their lives. Flying high above the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, planes dropped them in wooden boxes with air holes by the pair. They glided down to earth, buffeted by leftover military parachutes. The box popped open, and the beavers scampered off to their new homes.

This “trap-and-drop” method successfully relocated 76 lucky beavers, according to the Washington Post.

And everyone was happy! As long as you don’t think about the fact that many of these beavers would eventually be shot and skinned for their lucrative fur. "Fur is a resource of our country," as the film’s narrator says while a disembodied hand slowly and creepily strokes a luxurious brown pelt. “We value the skins of fur-bearing animals for their beauty, their warmth, and their durability.” At least they got to enjoy the unadulterated Idaho wilderness first.

Alas, there are no more beaver parachute rides today. But “it apparently worked pretty well back then,” current statewide fur bearer manager for Fish and Game Steve Nadeau told Boise Public Radio.

Rachel E. Gross is the science web editor at Smithsonian.