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Hunting Accident File > VIOLATIONS: > 2003

TWISTED TROPHY: HUNTERS BUSTED WITH BEAR

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 aphrodisiacs.

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 weekend.

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 cars."

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 said.

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.

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