This 1950 Video of Idaho's Parachuting Beavers Was Almost Lost Forever

Meet Geronimo the beaver, the test pilot that started it all.

Idaho Fish and Game / YouTube

Conservation officers in Idaho in the late 1940s had maybe the best idea of all time — parachute beavers into the wilderness to repopulate.

The idea was to get beavers away from areas where they were overpopulated and causing trouble and into remote, hard-to-access habitats. By launching the beavers from the air, they saved time and money.

After Boise Public Radio reported on the program earlier this year, a historian poked around looking for a copy of a video that was referenced in the documents but couldn’t be found.

It turned up mislabeled and in the wrong box, according to Boise Public Radio’s recent update to the story.

Now it’s on YouTube. The full 15-minute documentary features the live-trapping and relocation of muskrat, beaver, and marten. Skip to 7:20 if you’re mostly interested in watching beavers parachute from airplanes.

A beaver named Geronimo was the first test pilot, according to a paper published in 1950 in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

The first beaver-holding container was a willow basket. The idea was that the beaver could chew itself out once on the ground. But the beavers, who are above all excellent chewers, were getting out too quickly, and conservation officers worried they would escape in the plane or in midair.

So they designed a box that would open on impact with the ground. Then it was Geronimo’s turn, and he was dropped “again and again” to test the contraption.

A diagram of the beaver drop box.

Journal of Wildlife Management

“Each time he scrambled out of the box, someone was on hand to pick him up. Poor fellow! He finally became resigned, and as soon as we approached him, would crawl back into his box ready to go aloft again,” according to the paper.

It was a rough go for Geronimo, but he was rewarded for his service. He was among the first batch of 76 relocated beavers, earning a prime spot in the wilderness and three young female beavers to keep him company.

Although humans often consider beavers pests, they are actually amazing ecological engineers. By damming creeks and streams, they provide shelter and habitat for spawning fish and a multitude of other creatures.

CatDancing on Flickr

One group of ecologists actually believe beavers could be part of the solution to California’s drought, according to Water Deeply.

By damming up the rivers, beavers keep water in the ecosystem for longer, allowing it to feed surrounding plants and animals, and slowly trickle back into aquifers.

Beavers are amazing! If you love healthy, vibrant ecosystems, thank a beaver today.

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