WILSON, NC (WTVD) -- A bald eagle that died was a victim of lead poisoning, experts said Monday.
The Cape Fear Raptor Center is sending a message out to hunters about the type of bullets they use, as the toxic lead found in the bird can also be harmful to people.
The nearly 10-pound bald eagle found near Wilson Lake died of lead poisoning Sunday morning after experts at Cape Fear Raptor Center tried to save her.
The director of rehabilitation there, Scott Shrimp, said the female eagle was likely poisoned by eating fragmented lead, splintered off in an animal carcass, left behind by a hunter.
Nearby property owner Bucky Robins knew something was wrong when the bird stood still as his son's pickup rumbled by.
The eagle was taken to Cape Fear Raptor Center for help. Shrimp said her lead levels were so high they wouldn't even register.
They operated and administered other treatments to extract the metal, but the neurotoxicity of the lead was too much.
While the Cape Fear Raptor Center is supportive of hunting, they're urging hunters to switch to non-lead bullets - and it's not just for the sake of the animals.
"You are protecting our environment from this highly toxic substance," Shrimp said of using non-lead bullets. "You're also protecting your family as well because lead is soft and it fragments, and you don't think that it might've fragmented through the meat that you're going to eat, but it could, and you can truly infect your family with a lead poisoning as well."
According to the Cape Fear Raptor Center 75 percent of bald eagles they've treated in the past year have tested positive for lead.