A bear found dead near a freeway north of Los Angeles had its paws and gallbladder removed in what appears to be a gruesome case of crime of opportunity.
The black bear, found near the 14 Freeway near Sand Canyon Road east of Santa Clarita in Canyon Country, was likely struck earlier this week by a vehicle before the parts were removed, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bear was found with a gash in its abdomen and the paws appeared to have been sawed or chopped off.
The gallbladder, particularly the bear's bile, is of black-market value for poachers because it is used in some types of medicines. The bear's paws are considered by some to be a delicacy.
"There were no signs of a gunshot, broken legs or hip -- this was a crime of opportunity," Hughan told the Los Angeles Times. "We are very confident it was hit by a car. This desecration of the body was done afterward."
The bear is believed to have be about 2 years old and around 150 pounds.
The department has a hotline at 888-334-2258 to report poaching, which can involve hunting and fishing out of season, violating take limits and the illegal commercialization of wildlife. Callers can remain anonymous.
In 1982, the department began recommended regulatory and legislative changes to reduce black bear poaching.
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There are signs that California's black bear population is on the rise in recent years, including sightings in areas where they were not reported 50 years ago, such as the Central Coast and Southern California mountain ranges, according to the department. Between 25,000 and 35,000 black bears roam 52,000 square miles in California.