Why Are There Parachuting Beavers on Idaho T-Shirts?
If the internet had been around in the 1940s, video of this strange incident would've gone viral. Without a 24-hour news cycle at the time, many people forgot it even happened.
If you've been to any events where "Wear Boise" has been selling t-shirts, you laugh at some of the subtle Idaho humor in their t-shirt and hat designs...except for the one you don't exactly understand. You know the t-shirt I'm talking about, right? The one with the picture of a parachuting beaver loud and proud on the front of the shirt.
That t-shirt actually pays homage to one of the strangest events to occur in the Gem State in the past 70 years, but most people don't know about it. Before the 1940s, McCall and the rest of the area around Payette Lake was relatively uninhabited. As more Idahoans started to fall in love with the gorgeous scenery the way most of us have the area really started to take off.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, those who were trying to call McCall home after World War II ran into a huge problem when they started to build their homes. That problem was furry and at times, kind of cute. The area has overrun with beavers, who have a history of being pretty destructive to anything that humans built. Idaho Fish and Game had a dilemma on their hands. How do they eliminate the problem in McCall without killing off animals that had made a comeback from near extinction in the fur trade era?
Enter the hero the beavers needed. Elmo Heter, who worked with Fish and Game at the time, saw an opportunity to use a stock pile of parachutes that were going to waste after World War II. His plan was to catch as many beavers as the agency could and load them into boxes that had been tested to open when they impacted the ground. Those boxes would then be connected to a parachute and thrown out of a plane over the Frank Church River of No Return region.
Now before you call it animal abuse, the plan was actually successful. Of the 76 beavers who were re-homed using the parachute method, only one passed away.
This video clip above is just a little glance of the beaver relocation project, but if you nerd out on this kind of Idaho history you need to check out the newly remodeled Idaho State Museum over at Julia Davis Park. They just reopened to the public after a four year renovation in October 2018. One of their interactive displays gives you a deeper look at the story of "Geronimo," the original test beaver and how he responded to being dropped out of an airplane over and over again.
Plan Your Visit
The Idaho State Museum is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sundays 12-5 p.m. Admission prices for adults are $10, while seniors, students and veterans receive their tickets for $8. Children are just $5.