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Cody group bands together to help save raptor rescuer

ahalt, susan.jpg
Posted at 6:38 PM, Sep 20, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-21 10:27:41-04

Cody - A woman who has saved hundreds of eagles, owls, and hawks in northwest Wyoming needed help herself recently. 

Susan Ahalt, also known as the bird lady, literally fell ill. A group of people banded together to save her, and her raptors. 

Be it sandhill crane, owl, eagle or hawk, Susan Ahalt did whatever it took to rehabilitate hundreds of injured birds brought to Ironside Bird Rescue at her Cody home for four decades. 

But, during a release this summer, Susan fell and cracked her femur. Then she suffered a serious infection.

“There is so many of them to help.  And, I can’t do it all on my own," she told MTN News.

Minutes after the interview, Ahalt was picked up by an ambulance and taken by helicopter to Billings.

Jessica Lewis was already taking off work to feed the birds after Ahalt fell. Lewis is an experienced rehabilitator, herself. She and five others also helped Susan, with rides to the doctor’s office, and grocery store. 

“This is what needs to be done right now.  We do have a wonderful group of people who are coming in to help with all their various skill sets and this is something I can bring to the table," Lewis said.

So, when Ahalt went to a hospital 100 miles away, the friends stepped up. They shared the care of the birds, visited her in the Billings hospital, drove her home to Cody, brought her food, and took her to more doctor’s appointments. At the same time Ahalt was down, so was this golden eagle fledgling, who couldn’t fly. The researcher who monitored him in the nest felt he may have been malnourished. 

“We were really concerned.  We thought this bird had this much chance," Golden Eagle researcher Dr. Charles Preston said. 

Had it faltered, the eagle would spend its life in captivity as an educational bird. But, after weeks of care by Lewis and Ahalt’s other friends, miracles happened. 

Ahalt grew stronger, and on a late summer day, she watched from her wheelchair as her friends released the golden to its Big Horn Basin home in the sky. They released a bald eagle, and two other raptors a week before. Their flights helped Ahalt heal. 

“Thanks to those three birds we released, my mind is a lot more sound. And, my heart is with me," Ahalt said.

Ahalt said this five-month-old eagle has challenges ahead. It will have to learn how to hunt, find a territory, and a mate. 

“He’s a big strong baby. I think his mind is also recovered," she said. 

Ahalt’s nonprofit, IronsideBird Rescue, depends on grants and donations to pay for the birds, food, and vet bills.