In 1948, Idaho employees dropped beavers from airplanes. On purpose. And it worked.

In the wrong setting, beavers can be quite problematic.

The Humane Society of the United States — an organization dedicated to animal protection — even has a webpage titled “What to Do About Beavers."

The problem these animals cause is actually a pretty simple one. Beavers build dams, which is a very good thing if they're in a relatively rural floodplain — but it's a really bad thing if the beavers are in more densely populated suburbs or cities.


Left unchecked, beavers in an area with a lot of humans can cause damage to trees and, in some cases, flooding.

Image via Thinkstock.

Even the Humane Society understands that it's OK to take action against the beaver population at times.

The organization discourages trapping or shooting the animals, which (beyond being inhumane) is ineffective — “it only creates a vacuum into which new beavers will move, often sooner rather than later."

Instead, the Humane Society offers a few suggestions, such as fencing off trees and painting the trees with an abrasive coating.

They do not, however, suggest parachuting urban beavers into rural areas.

But, surprisingly, they probably should.

(Do not try this at home.)

In 1948, Idaho had a beaver problem.

As people moved into old beaver habitats and started building houses, the tree-chomping creatures became an increasingly sinister menace. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game wanted to relocate the city beavers to the uninhabited (by humans) parts of the state.

A man named Elmo W. Heter first tried to collect the beavers and put them on mules, but this wasn't successful — as he'd later recount in a paper (pdf here) on his efforts, the mules “become spooky and quarrelsome when loaded with a struggling, odorous pair of live beavers."

Undeterred, Heter tried a new approach.

Image via Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

In an attempt to relocate the beavers, Elmo W. Heter took an older, male beaver who would soon be dubbed "Geronimo" and started dropping him from airplanes.

Heter explained the process in the above-linked paper.

First, using weights, they tested crates until they found a type that would stay closed until reaching the ground.

Then, Geronimo's job began. Heter dropped him “again and again" from a plane and onto the field below in order to further determine the appropriate drop height and to test the crates carrying the beavers.

Once Geronimo had safely landed enough times for Heter's liking, the beaver relocation went into full swing.

It was, by and large, a success:

"In the fall of 1948, 76 live beavers were dropped with only one casualty. On the first drops, lightweight lashings were used on the sling ropes, and one of these broke before there was sufficient tension from the shroud lines to hold the box closed. One beaver worked his head through the small opening thus made for him and managed to climb out onto the top of the box. Even so, had he stayed where he was, all would have gone well; but for some inexplicable reason, when the box was within 75 feet of the ground, he jumped or fell from the box.

Observations made late in 1949 showed all the airborne transplantings to be successful. Beavers had built dams, constructed houses, stored up food, and were well on their way to producing colonies."

Heter estimated that transporting four beavers in this fashion could be accomplished at the relatively low price of $30 a quartet (about $300 in today's dollars) and concluded that "the savings in man hours, and in the mortality of animals, is quite evident," in case anyone wanted to repeat the process.

Image via Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

And, according to Smithsonian magazine, the air-dropped beavers' descendants still populate the region today — so the idea has staying power too.

But don't expect any more beavers to be tossed out of airplanes any time soon — even though the Humane Society doesn't specifically frown on the idea, they do suggest that we “try to live peacefully with these animals."

And that likely precludes parachuting them into parts unknown.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less

The fasting period of Ramadan observed by Muslims around the world is a both an individual and communal observance. For the individual, it's a time to grow closer to God through sacrifice and detachment from physical desires. For the community, it's a time to gather in joy and fellowship at sunset, breaking bread together after abstaining from food and drink since sunrise.

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited group gatherings in many countries, putting a damper on the communal part of Ramadan. But for one community in Barcelona, Spain, a different faith has stepped up to make the after sunset meal, known as Iftar, as safe as possible for the Muslim community.

According to Reuters, Father Peio Sanchez, Santa Anna's rector, has opened the doors of the Catholic church's open-air cloisters to local Muslims to use for breaking the Ramadan fast. He sees the different faiths coming together as a symbol of civic coexistence.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of CeraVe
True

"I love being a nurse because I have the honor of connecting with my patients during some of their best and some of their worst days and making a difference in their lives is among the most rewarding things that I can do in my own life" - Tenesia Richards, RN

From ushering new life into the world to holding the hand of a patient as they take their last breath, nurses are everyday heroes that deserve our respect and appreciation.

To give back to this community that is always giving so selflessly to others, CeraVe® put out a call to nurses to share their stories for a chance to be featured in Heroes Behind the Masks, a digital content series shining a light on nurses who go above and beyond to provide safe and quality care to patients and their communities.

First up: Tenesia Richards, a labor and delivery nurse working in New York City who, in addition to her regular job, started a community outreach program in a homeless shelter that houses expectant mothers for up to one year postpartum.

Tenesia | Heroes Behind the Masks presented by CeraVe www.youtube.com

Upon learning at a conference that black mothers in the U.S. die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women's health, Richards decided to take further action to help her community. She, along with a handful of fellow nurses, volunteered to provide antepartum, childbirth and postpartum education to the women living at the shelter. Additionally, they looked for other ways to boost the spirits of the residents, like throwing baby showers and bringing in guest speakers. When COVID-19 hit and in-person gatherings were no longer possible, Richards and her team found creative workarounds and created holiday care packages for the mothers instead.

Keep Reading Show less