“I’m not a bag lady. I do have a house,” Mager said to approximately 60 people during the second of two presentations she made during her stop in Goliad to promote her non-profit Saving Our American Raptors (SOAR) rehabilitation and educational organization.
Mager’s home for much of the year is her van in which she travels annually to parks across America to conduct her programs.
Mager, who turned 88 in October, began her fascination with raptors (birds of prey) after being hired by the Florida Audobon Society in 1962 when she was 39 years old.
“I ran the store for the Audobon Society,” Mager said. “I never knew I was ever going to work with birds of prey. I didn’t hardly know what a bird of prey was, because I wasn’t a bird watcher.”
But Mager soon developed a passion for raptors when someone brought an injured red-tailed hawk to her office.
“They brought a bird to us in a cardboard box,” Mager said. “They opened up the box and there was this bird lashing out to get somebody. Everybody walked away from the box except me.
“What I saw was the bird had an infection so bad on one of his feet that the bird could not kill. It was emaciated and dehydrated. It was about ready to die.”
Mager said all the other Aubodon workers were too afraid of the hawk’s talons to administer first aid to the bird.
“I looked into the eyes of that bird and I have no idea what happened to me,” Mager said. “It was the most beautiful bird I had ever seen.”
Mager took the bird home and was surprised that the hawk never tried to claw or bite here when she would pick it up. She nursed the bird back to health and a love affair had begun.
Mager, founded SOAR in 1989, travels with her 32-year-old great horned owl, ET, and several other birds that she uses during her programs.
Mager, who bicycled across America at the age of 16, said she doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
“I did seven programs a few weeks ago at a middle school,” Mager said. “Sure I was tired, but I was nicely tired. Get a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”