The Return of Native Nordic Fauna

A research blog exploring animal reintroduction history by Dolly Jørgensen

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s a beaver!

Moving animals around is no easy task. In translocations (a catch-all word which is used in science to mean moving animals around for many different reasons), the animal has to be crated, calmed, and carried away to its destination. Transportation means vary by location. In the first Swedish beaver reintroduction effort in 1922, train, horse cart, sledge, boat, and foot were all involved.

The beavers being readied for loading on the plane in Frösön. Festin on the left of the cage was the passenger with them. Photograph by Nils Thomasson, in Jamtli archive NTh15017

The beavers being readied for loading on the plane in Frösön. Festin on the left of the cage was the passenger with them. Photograph by Nils Thomasson, in Jamtli archive NTh15017

In 1934, a Norwegian beaver bound for her new Swedish home got to fly on a plane. In a previous post I’d written which discusses the flight, I said it was a pair of beavers, but now I see that it was just one female. In fact, for just one beaver being moved, two hydroplanes were taken! The reason was that in addition to the pilot and people involved in the reintroduction, including Eric Festin, a mechanic needed to make the journey in case a plane broke down and there wouldn’t have been enough room for him with just one plane.

But the flying beaver is nothing compared to the parachuting beavers I found in an article in Popular Mechanics from 1949 titled ‘Moving day for the parabeavers‘. Beavers in Idaho that had become nuisances by backing up water into unpopular places needed to be relocated. Although beavers had been nearly extinct in the state at the beginning of the 20th century, a successful conservation program had led to a dramatic recovery. According to the article, the Idaho beaver population by 1949 had rebounded to about 90,000 beavers.

A beaver sits on the crate that had been especially designed to be parachuted to a rural designation in Idaho. 'Moving day for the parabeavers', Popular Mechanics, Apr 1949.

A beaver sits on the crate that had been especially designed to be parachuted to a rural designation in Idaho.
Moving day for the parabeavers‘, Popular Mechanics, April 1949.

In addition to the standard relocation via truck, the trapper John Rynearson had set up an ingenious translocation scheme: parachuting. A special beaver crate was constructed with a parachute attached and a problem beaver put into it. A plane was flown over an uninhabited suitable habitat area and the crate was dropped out. The crate would parachute to the ground and then the specially-designed crate would open, letting the beaver out to its new home in the middle of nowhere. This ‘cheaper and more reliable’ alternative to ground transportation offered possibilities to relocate the beavers anywhere. As of the writing of the article in 1949, 35 beavers had been successfully dropped from the sky to new homes. It must have been a sight to see beavers drop from the sky.

View of the parachuting beavers above and one beaver after a successful landing below. 'Moving day for the parabeavers', Popular Mechanics, Apr 1949.

View of the parachuting beavers above and one beaver sitting on a parachute after a successful landing below. ‘Moving day for the parabeavers’, Popular Mechanics, Apr 1949.

 

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2 Comments

  1. dolly

    If you want to know more about the parachuting beavers in Idaho, a blog post published by Boise State Public Radio in January 2015 gives more details and photos of the story.

  2. dolly

    A video of the Idaho beaver drop has just been discovered! Watch it at http://gu.com/p/4dhcf/stw

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