Rediscovered Film Reveals 1950s Beaver Airdrop

There was something fantastic and jaunty about wildlife management in the early 1950’s, unencumbered by pesky regulations or notions of propriety.

Maybe most importantly is the time period: The early ‘50’s was post-World War II in America, and a generation of men were building a contemporary society based on their perspective, which was formed almost exclusively by their experience fighting a global war.

So if you spent your 23rd birthday capturing a German-held bridge, then your peacetime idea to crate up some beaver and drop them by parachute over the Idaho wilderness seems a little more like mowing the lawn on a balmy Spring day.

A recently discovered film, produced by the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Service around 1950, titled, “Fur for the Future,” shows how wildlife officials relocated beavers by airdropping them out of airplanes.

Fish and Game historian Sharon Clark found the film reel in an archive, where it was mislabeled.

“In preparing for the operation, beaver must be sorted for even size and weight. One pair of beaver for each box,” says the soothing narrator in the film.

 “Ten boxes to a load, 20 beaver, ready for a flight to Mountain Meadows.”

The footage shows wildlife managers crating the beavers and strapping them to parachutes, and then loading them into a small aircraft.

The operation apparently dropped the beavers in a wide swath of Idaho backcountry to help repopulate the region. Footage of a strangely calm beaver emerging from an opened crate suggests an idyllic operation, but when we consider that even the Normandy parachute operation ended up scattering paratroopers in a giant area where most of them landed nowhere near their objectives, the nice idea of the beaver drop seems more like a fun experiment than it does a good plan.

“The box opens, and a most unusual and novel trip ends for Mr. Beaver,” continues the narrator.

These days, wildlife managers use less grand methods to redistribute species. Instead of parachutes, it’s generally trucks and boats.

Photo credit: Youtube screenshot