California wildlife officials seek help finding person who cut off bear’s paws in Placer County

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking for a person who allegedly sliced four paws off a black bear over the weekend in Placer County.

The incident began Saturday when a person accidentally hit a bear on Foresthill Road and it later died from its injuries, said Patrick Foy, a spokesman for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Before state wardens responded to the scene, a person made off with the bear’s paws.

Licensed hunters can legally kill bears when the hunting season opens in the fall. In a legal killing, a hunter can chop off its paws, but Saturday’s extraction was illegal, he said.

Investigators do not have many leads, so anyone with information about this incident is asked to call the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s poachers and polluters hotline at 888-334-2258.

Residents coveting bear paws and stealing them is a rare occurrence, but not unheard of, Foy said. There are many different uses for the animal parts.

Archived Sacramento Bee stories from the 1990s and 1980s described incidents in which bear paws were sliced off. Eight Northern California men were charged in 1981 with illegally killing and selling more than 250 black bears. Bear paws were marketed to restaurants in Asia and gallbladders were sold as jewelry, according to a Bee story.

The Wildlife Alliance, a Cambodia-based nonprofit helping to stop poaching and animal trafficking, noted in a 2017 article that high-level golfers were served bear paw soup after golf tournaments as a sign of status in Cambodia. The Los Angeles Times reported in 1994 a poacher sliced off bear claws to be made into jewelry and then smuggled it to countries in Asia, where such commodities can go for thousands of dollars.