Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

The Skydiving Beavers: A True Tale

Susan Wood
Illustrator:  Gijsbert van Frankenhuyzen 
Nonfiction Picture Book
For ages 5 to 7
Sleeping Bear Press, 2017   ISBN: 978-1585369942

It all began when beautiful McCall, in Idaho, began to attract a lot of people who wanted to “build homes and lodges on the shore, docks for their sailboats and canoes, and paved roads to get to it all.” Who could blame them for wanting to live in such a lovely place? The problem was that others had considered the lake and the land around to be their home for centuries. Beavers had cut down trees and build their lodges and dams around, and in, the lake, and they kept on doing what beavers like to do, even when people began to settle in the area. The end result was that “people were muscling in on the beaver’s habitat,” and “the beavers were trashing the human’s habitat.”

Elmo Heter had worked for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and so he knew what beavers needed, and he knew where they could have the wilderness that best suited those needs. The problem was that the wilderness area in question, the Chamberlain Basin, could not be accessed by roads. There were no airports or railway or bus stations either. How would Elmo get the beavers to the Chamberlain Basin?

For a while Elmo thought that they might be able to transport the beavers to the wilderness in cages that were loaded on the backs of horses and mules. He soon scratched that idea. The pack animals would not like the beavers, and the beavers would not like the pack animals. Then he remembered that there were piles of parachutes left over from World War II. Could he perhaps drop the beavers out of a plane by placing them in cages attached to parachutes?

Elmo set about building a cage that would open when it landed on the ground, and that would thus release the beavers at the right time. He then had to test his box design to see if it would work. He first used weights in the box, and sure enough, after its brief fall through the air, the box opened when it landed on the ground. Then Elmo decided that he needed to test the box with a beaver inside. An old male beaver, whom Elmo called Geronimo, was his first test parachuting beaver, and what an adventure the old fellow had.

Though some people might find this hard to believe, this story is a true one. In 1948 Elmo Heter and his colleagues really did transport seventy-six beavers to the Idaho wilderness by using boxes strapped to parachutes.

Young readers and grown-ups alike are going to enjoy this true tale, which has a wonderful ending. At the back of the book an author’s note provides more information about Idaho’s operation skydiving beaver.