One Man Remembers Meeting Some Of Idaho's Parachuting Beavers

Dec 30, 2015

Credit Bob Dodson

Earlier this year, we told you the story of Idaho Fish and Game parachuting beavers into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in the late 1940’s. Back then, the idea was to trap problem beavers, put them in special boxes and parachute them from a plane. They were sent to remote areas where they could find a new home. That story, and a follow up with a video about parachuting beavers, went viral and spread around the world.

Bob Dodson saw a reprint of our story in his local paper in Vermont.  He was in Idaho when the parachuting program happened. He actually met some of the beavers that became famous as they were dropped from the sky.

“Yeah, what a story,” Dodson says.

He lives in the tiny town of White River Junction. But in 1948 he was looking for a way to make some cash.

“I was at graduate school in the east and I needed a summer job and I was studying geology at the time.”

He started working for Carter Oil Company as a geological assistant. He was paired up with a senior geologist to map parts of Idaho so the company could look for oil in the wilderness.

Even though they stayed in Afton, Wyoming, they did a lot of work in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest along the Idaho/Wyoming border.  Every day, Dodson and his boss would head out into the wilderness to go mapping.

“It was at least an hour, maybe two hours one way to work. We’d go off on these little roads into the Caribou National Forest and there was a little stream by the road and in the stream was quite a sizable beaver dam, which was no trouble for us at the start.”

That is, until the beavers decided to build a bigger dam… “And the beavers apparently were expanding their family and needed more space. It was like a house improvement for humans. They needed to improve their home.”

As the dam got bigger, so did the pond, until it flooded the dirt road. When they came upon this obstacle, his boss told Dodson to get out of the car and fix it.

“I was the junior one and I was sent out to do the work and break the dam of the extension. So the water would leak out and our road was messy and muddy, but we could get by.”

Dodson thought the problem was solved. He was wrong.

“Then the next morning, the same thing had occurred. They’d worked during the night, a family or maybe families had been at work and had repaired the puddle of what must have been six or eight inches deep and being a dirt road we couldn’t get through without removing the water. So we tore it down again. We did that three, I don’t think more than three times and then we contacted the Fish and Wildlife office in I suppose Boise.”

The response was immediate. Fish and Game came out right away and trapped all the beavers in the area. That’s when Dodson learned these beavers were about to become part of a new aerial relocation program.

“We were amused and fascinated to hear that these beavers were going to be dropped, I don’t think they said parachute, I wondered if they just flew low and they dropped them and they would survive the fall, but it was parachute into some other part of Idaho.”

This photo shows the beavers, being dropped by parachute, into their new homes.
Credit Idaho Fish and Game

Dodson says he and his boss were able to go about the business of mapping the forest.

“And then of course we had no problem getting to work. That was the last we heard of it.”

Dodson says he wasn’t concerned about the beavers being dropped by parachute. It seemed like a smart way to get the animals into their new home.

“At the time, we had nothing but respect; we felt that was rather clever, a well-organized state to do that. We had no feeling that there was any cruelty to this. If fact, they might have had a better home up there, building dams again. No, we were quite pleased and rather admiring of the state authorities when we heard the news.”

After his summer in Idaho, Bob Dodson went back east. He eventually went into international business, living overseas much of the time.

He did go back to the Forest a few years later with his wife and children, on vacation. He says he couldn’t find the old beaver pond, and there were a lot of mosquitoes, but Idaho was still a beautiful place to be.

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