ST. PETERSBURG — The X-ray showed a metal fragment lodged in the bald eagle's wing.
Rescuers concluded the bird died Tuesday from a gunshot. The news has prompted donations totaling $4,000 in reward money for information leading to the killer.
Rescuers say they won't know for sure how the eagle was killed until the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service conducts a necropsy.
But bird lovers are saddened — if not surprised — to think that someone shot the eagle.
"I've been here 26 years. I've see a lot," said Barbara Suto, hospital supervisor at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary, which took the injured eagle in after it was spotted in Seminole on Monday.
Though eagles are prized as the national symbol and protected by federal law, they are no longer endangered and have been victims before. Earlier this month, federal prosecutors charged a man with shooting a bald eagle in Ruskin.
The bald eagle has rebounded since the pesticide DDT, which damaged bird eggs, was banned in 1972.
More than 3,400 eagles are estimated to live in Florida, the second-largest population in the nation, trailing only Minnesota.
In 2007, the federal government took the bald eagle off the endangered species list, though it's still protected by federal and state law. People convicted of killing eagles face up to a year in prison and fines.
Ulgonda Kirkpatrick, eagle plan coordinator for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said state guidelines restrict how close developers can build next to eagle nests.
Because of those protections, she gets calls from homeowners who are upset that eagles are nesting on their property.
She said that never justifies killing the majestic birds.
"I don't understand why someone would ever want to harm, let alone kill, a bird that is just so magnificent," she said.
Times staff writers Kameel Stanley and Emily Nipps and Times researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.