Fur For The Future

This morning as I was driving to work, I heard on the radio one of the most unusual stories I have heard in a while, and as is my custom, I determined to know more about it. In the 1940’s and 50’s, there was a program in which beavers were relocated across the state of Idaho in order to engage in their occasionally benign terraforming in their building of dams and the resulting ponds that come from these efforts at structural engineering. What made the story particularly unusual are two details [1]. The first is that the effort to relocate these beavers took place by plane, where the beavers were put in cages and parachuted from one part of the state to another. The second part of the story that is odd and quirky is that the Idaho Department of Fish and Wildlife made a film of this effort, which was undertaken to deal with the problem of beaver overpopulation in some parts of the state, and then the film was mislabeled and lost in storage in Boise until very recently. Thankfully, it has now been digitized and is available on Youtube for those who want to look up the film of the parachuting beavers. You cannot make this stuff up.

Sadly, or happily, depending on whether you think the idea of beavers being dropped out of the sky in parachutes to their new homes is either the most awesome idea ever for wildlife relocation or is a horrifying plan, the state of Idaho has not parachuted beavers for about fifty years or so, according to Fish and Game historian Sharon Clark. However, the state still uses beavers to help restore vegetation to arid areas where the beavers’ behavior promotes efforts to make ponds and build infrastructure that supports water and the life that depends on it. The plan amounts to this: take a semi-arid area that has lost its vegetation but that still has the raw materials to support life, add some beavers who munch on some wood, cut down trees, and voila, beaver ponds surrounded by abundant and verdant plant life are created. The end result is a more even population of beavers and the encouragement of the sort of ecosystems that can support life. Everybody wins, from the relocated beavers who make their new homes into areas that are comfortable and familiar to the human beings who are able to greater appreciate land that is teeming with life.

With this appreciated, let us examine at least a few of the deeper implications of these matters. There are many cases where animal life tends to overpopulate in the areas where it is most welcome, leading to much suffering for those animals, and the question of what is to be done about it. Some people would prefer to introduce natural predators, for example, if there are too many deer or other animals in a given location, to try to recreate a natural balance in a given area. Yet the predators that are introduced, being predators and all, will not only cull the population of deer and other animals that might be considered desirable to hunt, but will also be a menace to pets and perhaps even children, making the introduction of predators into an area a dangerous proposition that frequently does not go as well as planned. Other options include having mankind serve as the predator of choice. In cases where deer, for example, are overpopulating an area, encouraging the culling of herds by hunters willing and able to make use of the animals in tasty game meat is a way that allows mankind to enrich its diet with protein in such a way that serves the larger benefit of the larger environment. This requires, though, people who are skilled at the craft of hunting, and it requires a sensitivity to proportion and balance, to make sure that areas are not overhunted and to ensure that the population as a whole is benefited, giving mankind a reason to conserve because we share in the benefits of it.

The case of beavers offers another example of how people can deal with animals that are a nuisance under some circumstances but a benefit under others. Beavers are going to do what beavers do. They eat wood, they cut down trees, they block rivers and build large wooden dams as their homes that they and their families maintain. Sometimes this is a good thing to mankind, and sometimes it is a bad thing, depending on the time and place where they act, but the fact that beavers are fairly predictable animals in their behavior means that wise people seek to create or exploit opportunities where the interests of beaver and the interests of people coincide. Where we know what others are going to do because they have regular and orderly patterns of behavior, what remains to us is to put others in places where their habits and patterns of behavior serve the good of others, and to then make sure that they gain the benefits of these prosocial actions as well, so that all are benefited by everything being in its proper place. This is true whether we are talking about beavers or people, and no matter the means we have of ensuring that they get their proper place, even if it includes some skydiving.

[1] See, for example:

http://qctimes.com/news/weird-news/idaho-agency-finds-historic-footage-of-parachuting-beavers/article_f9d57528-797d-11e5-b195-4ffbf77ee54e.html

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Fur For The Future

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