Watch Beavers Parachute From Planes in Footage From 1948

Skydiving beavers. What could possibly go wrong?
A beaver that may or may not have parachuted out of a plane.
A beaver that may or may not have parachuted out of a plane. / by Marc Guitard/Moment/Getty Images

Beavers are nature’s engineers. The large rodents build dams across rivers, creating wetlands and swamps and fostering healthy ecosystems for other animals and plants. But when they get too close and too comfortable with cities—or when wildlife officials want to prevent them from flooding low-lying areas—beavers have been transported to more amendable habitats.

Over the years, Idaho Fish and Game has tried its best to keep beavers safely away from the hustle and bustle. To this end, the agency has experimented with a number of different tactics—but one idea from 1948 really, uh, jumps out.

Back then, Idaho Fish and Game employee Elmo Heter decided that the best place for these beavers would be a remote area called Chamberlain Basin (now part of the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness Area). The habitat would have all the amenities the beavers needed, and would be far away from human activity. Unfortunately, because of its remote location, there were no roads to get there.

The only logical solution? Planes. 

Apparently, horses and mules were easily spooked by the beavers—the rodents’ constant movement and pungent smell unnerved the pack animals. So Heter decided to try flying the beavers in. This was right after World War II and there was a surplus of parachutes, so the proposed plan re-purposed supplies that would otherwise sit around in storage. 

With the help of test beaver Geronimo, Heter created a special wooden box that opened on impact. In total, 76 beavers were dropped in Chamberlain Basin, with all but one surviving. They went on to live fruitful, busy lives in their remote new home. 

The story of the furry skydivers may sound too silly to be true, but there is video evidence. Fish and Game historian Sharon Clark found the forgotten footage, and thanks to the magic of the internet, we can all enjoy it today.

A version of this story was published in 2015; it has been updated for 2024.

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