Professor Joseph Hickey and Robert Ellarson try to free a beaver. The animal's tail got stuck under a tree.
Handwritten note on the back of the photo
Handwritten note on the back of the photo

In September 1952, Hugo Wilmar published an article in “Outdoor Life Magazine, entitled“ Stumped ”about the rescue of a trapped beaver.

Photo series

Wilmar's photos show a rescue attempt by a Beaver. One of the photos has a handwritten note on the back.

The photo series does not stand out in the enormous amount of impressive images in Hugo Wilmar's portfolio. Although the images are (of course) technically good, the circumstances are not clear. Only from the detailed description on the back of one of the photos in the family archive can it be concluded that there is a bigger story behind the photos.

In Chippewa Herald Telegram mention is made of the rescue. This local newspaper also contains a reference to the article in the Outdoor Life Magazine.


During his training at the University of wisconsin Hugo had good contact with Hickey and Ellarson, the professors of his degree. He went hunting with them.

During one of these hunting trips, Hugo Wilmar heard his teachers call. He rushed to the direction of the sound. Arriving, he saw the pinched beaver.

The beaver has become trapped under a tree. The tree, instead of falling, had slipped from the stump and landed on the beaver's hind leg. Joseph Hickey, Robert Ellarson and Hugo Wilmar have worked together to rescue the beaver.

It turned out to be impossible to pull the tree with combined forces. That's why Hickey and Ellarson dug out the soil beneath the beaver with their hands and a pocket knife, and the beaver was able to escape.

"Stumped" in Outdoor Life Magazine

Near his lodge on the Wisconsin River bottoms, fory miles west of Madison, a full-grown beaver chopped trough a cottonwood. In stead of falling, the tree leaned against another while its trunk slid off the stump and pinned down his webbed hind foot. The trapped animal was found by Prof. Joseph J. Hickey and Instructor Robert S. Ellarson of the Department of Wildlife Management, University of Wisconsin, who were hunting. Failing to shift the tree, they finally freed him by digging out the soil around his foot with their fingers and a pocketknife. A hurry call brought me and my camera to the scene in time to get these pictures. Taken to the river, the beaver drank deeply. Then he swam off, slapped his tail as if in a guesture of gratitude, and Dived.

- Hugh A. Wilmar, September 1952

Local press

The beaver's rescue has also been picked up by the Chippewa Herald Telegram, a local newspaper from Eau Claire, west of Madison, Wisconsin.

Rescue beaver
Professor Hickey and Ellarson lift the liberated beaver by its tail.
Outdoor Life Magazine September 1952
Outdoor Life Magazine September 1952
Rescue of the Beaver
The Beaver Rescue, described in the September 1952 article “Stumped” in Outdoor Magazine

Other masterpieces:

Three birds on a roof

Three birds

The photo of a Rook, Raven and Hooded Crow, with which Hugo Wilmar won a photo competition…
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