Some weeks just go like the last week of March. A call came on a week night. A gentleman driving home to his ranch east of Sturgis found a great horned owl on the side of the road. The bird couldn’t fly. He scooped up the feathered one, and started making calls. Meade County Dispatch gave him my number. We met him in Sturgis. His compassionate nature meant he drove an extra 60 miles back to town with the bird after a full day of work at the VA.
The beautiful silver grey owl had no issues other than hunger. A smaller one, it was likely a male. And it wanted to eat! Supportive care meant fluids, Emeraid slurry and eventually deer liver.
The next day John took a call from Wildlife Conservation Officer Bill Eastman. A bald eagle had been found grounded near Orman Dam. The men met at Sturgis for the hand-off. We agreed with US Fish & Wildlife Service special agent Brad Merrill that both birds would be transported to the rehabber in Pierre on Sat. March 30, which was the next day. Dr. Peggy Behrens, the head of National American University’s Vet Tech program, administered fluids to help stabilize the eagle, and then we allowed it to rest quietly.
That evening, I got a call from Randy V, who had been hiking along Rapid Creek west of Silver City that afternoon. He and his friend found a downed bird of prey that refused to fly. He took photos, and sent them to me. A mature golden eagle! It was after dark by then, and John was working until 10pm. We agreed to hike in the next morning as early as we could muster.
Silver City Fire Chief Jeff Sugrue had gate keys for us at 6:30 on Sat. morning, along with some welcome assistance. Chris and Hannah Sugrue hiked with John and me from the point where we had to park, about 1 mile in from the locked gate. I love that trail west of Silver City. I used to hike there about once a week when I lived in that part of the Hills. Morning light was beautiful, and I had some guarded optimism we could find the eagle alive.
Following Randy’s great directions, we came to the last known location and fanned out. In about 6 minutes John had spotted her, alive! I circled around the front with my coat spread open to make me look as big as possible. John and the young people approached with a canvas tarp from the back. She tried to escape, running on closed talons, calling out with a wheezing saxaphone-like noise.
A quick bundle in the tarp, two rapid photos, and we hiked back. The Sugrues shared breakfast with us after a triage exam of the bird in their garage. She had no broken bones, but was thin and had the raspy breathing that seemed “not right”.
At 10:15am I was at National American University with all three birds, meeting Dr. Peggy, and board member Steve Benn. I was tired and I needed another bird handler, just in case. The owl got more liver pieces, the bald eagle got a slurry breakfast, and the golden eagle got 120 mL of fluids to help stabilize her. I headed for Pierre at 12:45pm with three crates.
All three raptors were delivered to Dr. Virginia Trexler-Myren’s All Creatures Animal Hospital that early evening. I headed home, worn out but happy that three more injured wild ones were in the best care we could find for them.
The owl and the bald eagle will hopefully be released. The golden eagle had pnuemonia and didn’t make it. It is hard news to receive and hard news to share. That is why it has taken me a few days to write this blog.
Our heartfelt thanks to each of the people who helped us with this remarkable week that included sharing a little time with two eagles and one owl. We feel blessed to do what we do with birds of prey.