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PA: Bear paw found in York County could mean illegal hunting

June 21, 2010

Bear paw found in York County could mean illegal hunting

The severed rear paw of an American black bear was found in a Springfield Township neighborhood Tuesday, prompting state game officials to launch an investigation into what appears to be an unlawful slaying.

The paw, found on a road and turned over to officials, appeared to have been sawed off, said Chad Eyler, a wildlife conservation officer with the state's Game Commission.

Bear paws, gall bladders, penises, skulls and other parts are illegally sold on the wildlife black market for collectors of exotic trophies and for use in traditional medicine overseas, he said. Gall bladders can fetch between $5,000 and $10,000 on the black market, he said.

The crudely severed paw is a possible indication that the bear was divided into parts, an indication of possible illegal activity, Eyler said.

"When you start splitting a black bear apart, the price ranges ... are comparable to the illegal drug trade," he said. "Finding just a paw, we are curious about where the rest of the parts are."

Hunting bears is legal only during bear season in November. Adding to Eyler's suspicion regarding the recent finding is the coinciding migration of American black bears through York County, he said. Black bears aren't generally found in York during the rest of the year, though they move through the area in spring, he said.

Last week, for example, officials captured and relocated a migrating young black bear that had wandered to Monaghan Township and was munching on seed from a bird feeder.

Found on road: The paw was found on a road by a citizen who turned it over to officials. Eyler said the road's name is not being released because it could hinder investigation.

There was early stage maggot growth on the paw, which indicates the paw had been exposed to the elements for between 24 and 26 hours, he said.

If officials find that a crime has been committed, the guilty party would face a fine, a summary offense, of at least $800, said Don Garner, information and education supervisor at the Game Commission.

He or she would also lose hunting privilege in Pennsylvania, he said.

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