This story takes place in Idaho, USA in 1949 and is a completely true story.
Back in 1949 Idaho was growing. The population was getting larger and more and more people wanted a little piece of Idaho beauty for themselves. Trees. Rivers, Greenery. Who wouldn’t?
But these Idaho residents had a problem.
The beavers also wanted to live in this beautiful place. In fact they had been for many centuries. Long before these pesky humans arrived.
The beavers of Idaho didn’t take too kindly to human things popping up all over their pretty little beaver communities, and they let the humans know by destroying everything that got in their way, including irrigation systems, orchids and anything else that beavers chew on or through.
The beavers were causing havoc and some one needed to find a solution.
They couldn’t just kill them off.
Aside from that being a total ‘dick’ move, beavers actually contributed significantly to the ecosystem. They are key contributors to improving the habitats of game, fish and birds in the area as well as performing a key service towards watershed conservation.
The Idaho Game and Fishing Department decided that relocation was the best option.
Beaver relocation in most US states where beavers reside is not so much of an issue, as majority of these locations have vast back country roads and easily accessible locations. You could load up the beavers. Go for a day trip and drop them off somewhere nice. Easy-peasy.
But in Idaho, it wasn’t so easy. Idaho is very mountainous and heavily forested, and at the time had a severe lack of roads into these remote areas.
The long-established approach of beaver relocation involved scooping up a bunch of our bucked tooth friends and transporting them for several days, via multiple modes of transport before – some of them – made it to a new home. This method was quite arduos, very expensive and had quite a high mortality rate for the little guys. A lot of them didn’t make it due to the heat and rough conditions. (Beavers don’t really dig heat). But this was the only way it could be done.
That is, until a guy named Elmo W. Heter came along with an idea.
You see, back in 1949 Idaho also had a problem with a large amount of surplus parachutes left over from World War 2 and…
You see where this is going huh….
Yep. Elmo’s idea was to tie parachutes to a bunch of beavers and then drop them out of planes into a new location.
So confident was Elmo with his idea, that he spent the next few months devising and testing a way of hooking beavers up to parachutes– one beaver in fact; a beaver he called Geronimo – and throwing him out of a plane.
Elmo created a special beaver box that the beaver could be placed in. He would then hire a plane, and throw Geronimo out of it with a parachute attached to the box. Once it landed, Geronimo would do what beavers do, and chew through the box.
The first hurdle Elmo ran into was that Geronimo would chew through the box mid-flight, before he had a chance to launch him out of the plane. Which was not a good experience for Geronimo or the pilot.
Side note: try to visualise and extremely pissed off beaver going crazy in a plane at 12000 feet. That’s a plane you don’t want to be the pilot of.
Back to the drawing board.
Elmo then created a specialised box. One that Geronimo couldn’t chew through, but would spring latch open once it made impact with the ground. It worked.
Elmo trialled the box over and over at a local airfield. Each time, dropping it from a plane with little Geronimo inside. Each time, he would float to the ground in his airborne box, which would spring open upon reaching the ground. Geronimo would run for freedom, only to be caught by handlers waiting for him.
Eventually the day came and Geronimo was placed in his box for a final time – but this time with three pretty beaver ladies.
Elmo, Geronimo and the three lady beavers flew out to a far off, isolated patch of wilderness called the Chamberlain Basin. Once they reached the destination, the doors of the plane opened and out flew the four beavers.
The launch went off without a hitch, and Geronimo and his lady-friends ran off in to their new home – and all at a cost of just $30 to the Idaho Fish and Game Department – a fraction of the cost that the previous, and less effective process had.
Over the next year or so, another 72 beavers were transferred into this new paradise using Elmo’s method and to this day, the ancestors of Geronimo and his friends populate the Chamberlain Basin.
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I love this story. What’s not to love though. It’s a real life story about putting parachutes on beavers!
But strangely enough, I can actually relate this story with my day-to-day job, and a lot of the decisions I see businesses make.
Not so much beavers getting pushed out of planes (maybe one day though), but businesses opting for quick, yet much less effective and often expensive processes, rather than defining a solid, tried and tested strategy and then executing on it.
Sure, it has a success rate – albeit not a very great one – but taking the time to come out with a new method, or thinking outside of the box (or in this case pushing a box out of a plane) seems like too much effort.
I’m a massive fan of defining and testing a strategy before executing on something that might kind of, maybe , hopefully be an ok result.
Take the time. Research. Work with your beavers. Find out what’s gonna make them happy. Find the method that’s definitely going to work, and then when you throw them out of a plane, you know they’re gonna be ok.