The year was 1948, and Elmo Hester had a problem on his hands. Idaho’s Fish and Game department, where Hester worked, was in charge of relocating beavers from the Payette Lake region—where postwar families were building new homes—to more secluded areas, where the animals wouldn’t get in the way.
It was a sprawl problem, really. “[People] kind of moved into where these beavers had been doing their things for decades, centuries, and beavers became a problem," the department’s spokesman, Steve Liebenthal, told Boise State Public Radio earlier this year.
But back in 1948, Hester had an idea. He believed beavers would be better suited to the Chamberlain Basin, nearly two miles away. The wilderness area didn’t yet have roads, so Hester came up with another plan. He would live-trap the animals—then airdrop them into their new habitats. Borne in sturdy wooden boxes, the beavers would safely float to the ground via attached parachutes.
Hester designed the boxes. Each held two beavers and came complete with ventilation holes and spring-loaded hinges that opened the boxes when the contraptions hit the ground. In recently unearthed archival footage, Fish and Game shows how it all went down (skip to around minute seven to watch the airdrop):
As Boise State Public Radio reports, the project didn’t continue past the 1940s. Today, local homeowners are expected to just deal with local beavers instead having them flown off into the forest.
But U.S. officials have not totally abandoned this airdrop method. In 2010, a government-funded project dropped dead mice packed with drugs into Guam. This was not a sting operation; the area was dealing with an infestation of invasive tree snakes, and the deadly, drug-laden mice took them out.
The beaver story has a much happier ending. Liebenthal, the Fish and Game spokesman, says the Idaho beavers’ descendants are likely still living in the protected Chamberlain Basin area today.