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Cadillac Couple Tells Their Incredible Tale of Saving Bald Eagle Hit by Car

“He picked him up and was holding him just like a baby.”

On their way to Manton for an appointment in 2019, Cadillac residents Steve and Carol Duncan had an unforgettable chance encounter that was both beautiful and tragic.

They were driving on US-131 nearing mile-marker 191 when they saw two bald eagles in the middle of the passing lane.

“We watched the car in front us drive toward them. They hit one, and the other flew up before they could hit them. It was devastating,” Carol said.


The car that struck the eagle kept going, but the Duncans stopped and approached the bird.

“We pull over and my husband went to get the eagle, and he was still alive, laying there,” Carol said.

“He picked him up and was holding him just like a baby.”

The eagle stayed in Steve’s arms while the couple called the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and pulled off the highway into a carpool lot. DNR officials, who were in Traverse City, said it would be awhile before they got there. In the meantime, the Duncans watched over the eagle.


“It was about an hour and a half later, and the bird started to wake up a little bit. He sits up in my husband’s lap and starts to look around in the truck,” Carol said.

“I jumped out of the driver’s seat of the truck, and that bird landed in my seat. So I stayed outside the truck. I was not getting back in,” she added.

After getting acquainted with the new environment, the eagle climbed back in the lap of his new friend. It turns out, Steve had worked with big birds for most of his life - albeit, the birds he owned and cared for were domesticated, like macaws. Steve also trained them for owners who were unable to handle them or were afraid of doing so. Steve showed no fear with the full-grown eagle in the cab of his truck.

“The bird gets back over on his lap and is just sitting there on my husband’s knee, looking around and looking up at him. He almost looked at up at him like ‘thank you,’” Carol said.


The DNR arrived with a cage and brought it to the passenger side of the truck. The bird was calm - until the ranger tried to grab him.

“That eagle grabbed our handle on the dashboard with his beak and his talons and sunk them in. There are holes all over the dashboard now because of it,” Carol said.

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Between Steve and the officer, they finally got the bird loose and into the cage. The DNR transported the bird to Wings of Wonder in Honor (which is now closed).


Rebecca Lessard was the founder and director of Wings of Wonder, a nonprofit focused on rehabilitating birds of prey such as eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, osprey and vultures.

On average, the facility rehabbed about 130 birds a year, with the help of 10 veterinary clinics from Sault Ste. Marie down to Flint.

“When a bird is hit by a car and found along the road injured, we do an initial exam feeling for any extreme injuries, fractures, open wounds, abrasions,” Lessard said.

Next, the bird is stabilized with fluids.

“If they can take fluid by mouth, we put a tube down their throat into their little tummies, otherwise they are given through a needle under the skin,” Lessard said.

After an accident, the bird is typically in shock. Lessard and her team do their best to minimize the stress for the animal.

“Within 24 hours, if they are stable enough, they are seen by an attending veterinarians for a full body x-ray,” she said. “It’s really easy to miss something. If there is no fractures, then they are treated for internal injuries, given pain medication, and kept in a quiet, dark area for however long they need to keep them calm. Then all their energy ... focuses on healing.”

After a few days of treatment, if strong enough, the bird makes its way to a small flight pen.

“Eventually they are moved to an eight-by-ten flight pen with a perch and big water pan. There we can observe their posture and watch them for however long it takes for them to show us they are ready to go in the big flight pen,” Lessard said.

In the 100-foot flight pen, the birds can spread their wings, fly and work out those kinks from their accident.

“They are given a variety of food, fish, rats, quail, rabbits, squirrels, whatever we are defrosting the day before. Depending on the bird and how long we’ve had it, if it’s a quick turnaround, they are taken right back to the area where we found it,” Lessard said.

The eagle the Duncans rescued suffered a small crack to the beak, and it was released about a week after getting hit by the car.

And the Duncans were there to watch.

“They met us back at the carpool area, and they get him out of the truck and out of the cage. She set him in the tall grass and that moment when he took flight, the wings just spread so beautiful,” Carol said.

Lessard is recently retired, and Wings of Wonder is closed. But the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians hope to break ground this year on the Migizi Aviary, the first tribal eagle aviary east of the Mississippi. Lessard worked closely with the LTBB and is thrilled to see the legacy of bird rehabilitation live on with Migizi Aviary.