Monday, November 17, 2003
Police in northern Passaic County are being deluged with
calls from outraged residents after someone decapitated a 100-pound bear
that had been struck and killed by a car.
"I've gotten more telephone calls on this bear than I did
on a murder case three years ago," Ringwood Police Chief Bernard
Lombardo said yesterday.
People interested in meat, fur, head mounts or ingredients
for ancient medicines have long helped themselves to the carcasses of
roadkill along New Jersey's highways. Deer carcasses are the most popular,
though bear parts are now being taken, too, authorities said.
Bear carcasses have been found with missing heads as well
as missing paws and gall bladders, two items that fetch thousands of dollars
in a black market trade of animal parts for ancient Asian medicines and
The latest incident in Ringwood occurred over the weekend.
The 100-pound bruin was killed at about 6:30 p.m. Friday on Greenwood Lake
Turnpike when it darted out in front of a truck. The bear was killed
instantly and police left it on the roadside for collection over the
But shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday, a patrolman noticed
that the bear had been decapitated. Others noticed it, too, and were
appalled by the sight.
"I'm not anti-hunting or an animal rights person, but what
was done to this bear was not dignified at all. It was horrible," said
Mike Martin of Ringwood, who stopped at the scene and noticed that surgical
gloves had been left behind by whoever severed the head.
"It's happened before, unfortunately," said Jack Kaskey of
the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. "It's something that appears
to be happening as the bear population grows and more bear are hit by
About a month ago, a teacher in Sussex County was
discovered severing the head of a road-killed bear, but he was not
prosecuted when authorities found he was doing it for a class project. More
often, people who remove heads from bears or deer take them to taxidermists
to create a wall mount.
In the case of the Ringwood bear, a mount would be
impossible because it was severed without any skinning of the hide, Lombardo
With the exception of licensed hunters, disturbing
wildlife, whether it is dead or alive, can result in prosecution under state
wildlife control and hunting laws.
Penalties for illegally possessing wildlife carcasses or
parts range from $100 to $300 upon conviction. Anyone caught selling
wildlife parts can be prosecuted under second-degree, indictable charges
that carry prison terms in New Jersey.