A man who lives on Rio Del Mar Boulevard in the unincorporated town of Aptos found the 4-foot-tall, stork-like bird suffering from a gunshot wound to the wing on Nov. 14.
He caught it with the help of Santa Cruz-based Native Animal Rescue and brought it to the research center, said Jay Holcomb, director of the center.
It died four days later.
"We were hoping it would live. The bone was pretty shattered and it was just too far beyond repair," he said.
Herons are known to feed off goldfish and other pond fish, which has prompted pond owners to shoot them in the past, he said.
The shooting, a federal offense, is punishable through the state Department of Fish and Game and can result in jail time.
Fish and Game officials are asking anyone who saw the shooter or has any information on the crime to call the department's tip line at (888) 334-2258.
"We want that person found," Holcomb said.