Organs taken from roadkill bear
August 20, 2008
TRUCKEE ” A bear hit by a car Monday night may have had its organs removed for sale on the black market.
California Highway Patrol notified Caltrans of the bear carcass on Highway 89 south of Truckee on Monday night. When both Caltrans and BEAR League personnel arrived Tuesday morning, it appeared someone had removed its gall bladder and genitals.
The California Department of Fish and Game is investigating if the organs were in fact removed and are looking for evidence of who may have done it.
“Somebody took it to the side of the road with surgical equipment, cut off the genitals and gall bladder ” that’s all illegal,” said Ann Bryant of the BEAR League.
Bryant said the bear appeared to be 3 or 4 years old and weighed about 200 to 300 pounds.
Mark Lucero, patrol captain with the Department of Fish and Game, said such organs are sold on the black market, generally as an aphrodisiac or for medicinal purposes overseas.
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Bryant said the biggest market is in Asia, where the prized organs have caused poaching to deplete native populations, spreading the black market to America.
Gall bladders can fetch $500 nationally or as much as $5,000 in Asia, Lucero said, but killing a bear for its body parts is a felony offense.
In the case of the bear on Highway 89, because it appears it was killed by a car, Lucero said this would be unlawful possession of bear parts, a misdemeanor.
“Without witnesses, this is going to be a tough case to make,” Lucero said.
But a bloody rubber glove was found near the bear, which can be run for fingerprints, he said.
Bryant said she was angry when Caltrans moved the bear body off the highway to a landfill, which she said was disturbing the scene of the crime. “It’s like picking a murder victim off the floor to let the cleaners in,” she said.
Rochelle Jenkins, a spokeswoman for Caltrans, said workers were authorized by the Department of Fish and Game to move the bear.
“It’s a public-safety situation,” Lucero said. “If Caltrans says it could cause an accident, then we aren’t going to impede that.”
Views differed on how much of a problem parts poaching is locally.
Bryant said there are two to three reports a year locally of bear carcasses missing organs, paws or heads.
But Lucero said there isn’t any organized black market in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
“We suspect the person just happened to come upon the bear,” Lucero said.