As It Happens

Beavers falling from the sky! Long-lost film shows animals parachuted from a plane

The airdrop came courtesy of conservation officers in Idaho in the 1950s. It was filmed for a film called Fur for the Future. Then the movie was lost. But recently staff at the state's archives rediscovered it.
A beaver emerges from its crate after being airdropped from a plane by conservation officers in Idaho in the early '50s. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a beaver?

That's right. A newly-rediscovered nature film show beavers falling from the sky. The beavers were packed in crates and dropped by parachute from a plane in the 1950s.

A lot of wildlife things are kind of out-there sometimes, but this is really a very, very unusual sort of story.- Vicky Runnoe, Idaho Department of Fish and Game

The animals' strange trip came courtesy of conservation officers in Idaho in the 1950s. It was for a film called Fur for the Future. Then the movie was lost. But recently staff at the state's archives rediscovered it.

"A lot of wildlife things are kind of out there sometimes, but this is really a very, very unusual sort of story and to actually see it was pretty amazing," Vicky Runnoe tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "We're very excited to get a hold of it again."

An Idaho conservation officer puts a beaver in a crate to prepare for its airdrop. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

Runnoe is conservation education supervisor for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. She says that most of the beavers involved - 57 of 59 - survived the airdrop because of good planning.

"There was a lot of work done ahead of time before they ever put a live animal in those boxes," she says. "To make sure they had the correct type of chute, that the boxed opened properly, that it was padded. I was very impressed with the amount of effort that went in to ensure the survival of these animals."

Conservation officers attach a parachute to the beaver's crate, as they load it on a plane. (Idaho Department of Fish and Game)

The reason for the unusual airlift? Conservation.

"In the Northern Rocky Mountains, beaver populations were pretty well decimated during the fur trade. Over time habitat areas that would otherwise be great for beaver were vacant of beaver," Runnoe explains. "It was a way to bring beaver back to where they'd historically been present."

And it worked. Beaver now thrive in the region.

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