Earlier this year, we brought you the story of beavers parachuting into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The story spread like wildfire, complete with pictures of the beavers, tucked inside their travel boxes, parachuting into their new homes.
It turns out there’s more to this story.
For years, there have been whispers at Idaho Fish and Game of a film, made around 1950, that showed how the Department relocated fur-bearing animals, like beavers, around the state. It supposedly included footage of the infamous airplane beaver drops. There is even a brief Idaho Statesman article from 1950 that says Fish and Game had received permission to make two color films for $700.
But the film was missing. Until now.
One of Sharon Clark’s jobs at Fish and Game is Department Historian. She pursued the rumors, along with help from the Idaho Historical Society. After years of searching, the film “Fur for the Future” was found, mislabeled and in the wrong box.
Clark says the film was in a fragile state and the Society got some experts to convert it to a digital format. Fish and Game and the Historical Society are pleased to show it off today. (The parachuting beavers show up around seven minutes into the video.)
That was then. What about today?
Steve Nadeau is the statewide fur bearer manager for Fish and Game.
“Yes, we still do some trapping and relocating of beavers. We haven’t done airplane drops for 50 plus years, but it apparently worked pretty well back then to reestablish them in remote places," says Nadeau.
He says currently, beavers are fairly well-distributed, but some are still caught and transplanted (not by parachute), mainly to help the habitat.
Fish and Game is transplanting beavers now in the Owyhee desert, where years of watershed use has denuded the vegetation. The beavers can go in to help restore the land. Nadeau says beavers make good ponds that can hold water all year, and that’s important to the landscape.
And he says there are other reasons to move beavers around.
“We also have beaver problems, so we’re trapping them from where they’re causing problems and taking them where we want them to go.”
Beavers are still trapped for their fur in Idaho.
As for the other animals in “Fur for the Future,” Nadeau says pine martins were actively trapped in Idaho in the 1980’s and 90’s. They were part of a program to re-establish the animals in South Dakota, in the Black Hills and other areas. Idaho sent South Dakota pine martins, and they sent us wild turkeys, which we used to help re-establish a turkey population in Idaho.
And as for the muskrat? Nadeau says Fish and Game has no active program to trap or relocate those mammals. However, they are actively trapped and more of them are harvested annually each year in Idaho than any other fur-bearing animal.
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