There was no instruction manual and no one to turn to for advice when Lois Layton embarked on her lifelong dream of helping wildlife. It was trial and error, but today, forty-five years later, 250 to 350 birds a year owe their lives to Lois and Frank Layton.

Lois and Frank have dedicated theirs to nursing birds back to health and releasing the m into their natural environments. A nurse by trade, Oklahoma native Lois gave up caring for people when she arrived in Casper on her way to live in Alaska, some thing  she'd always wanted to do. Her plans changed when she met and married Frank and made Wyoming her home. While Frank worked full time as an accountant, Lois started her injured and orphaned rehabilitation operation on a small scale, working mainly with birds.

By 1970, she was caring for wildlife full time. In 1986, Frank retired and pitched in. With few references to consult, they learned as they went along with only a brief set of instructions from the Seattle Audubon Society. Dr. Oliver Scott gave the Laytons some advice, along with a large, open barn where the raptors could stretch their wings and gain the crucial strength they needed to be released back into the wild.

Local veterinarians also provided some advice and initially some services for free. But as the bills for the vari­ous X- rays, laboratory tests, and treatments grew, rather than shutting their doors, the Layton's work to find alternative ways to help fund their efforts.

The Nature Conservancy, the Murie Audubon Society of Casper, and the public pitch in to help. But it's food for the birds, which  each can eat a quarter to a pound of meat a day, that's the most costly and often totals a third to half of the operation's cost. Hunters and meat processors donate big-game meat; and road kill, when available, provides a hearty meal for the birds. Livestock operators also provide hearts for food. Last year, the Murie Audubon Society raised $60,000 for a new barn and the Laytons to replace the aging one.

Birds that have been electrocuted, poisoned or have a broken wing are some of the many that find their way to the Laytons. The pair have nursed more than 1,000 eagle's back to health. Most of the recovered birds can survive in the wild after they're healthy, and those that don't are used for education. Educating the public is a crucial part of the Layton's rehabilitation effort, and they often speak to groups about birds and the needs of young wildlife to prevent an animal from becoming orphaned. The Laytons have made, and are making, a substantial contribution to Wyoming wildlife at the most basic level-one bird at a time.

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