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Dead 2-Year-Old Bear Found Missing Paws And Gallbladder

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A 2-year-old bear was found dead and mutilated in Canyon Country Thursday, missing its paws and gallbladder. And it turns out bear parts fetch a high price on the black market. The bear was discovered by a highway maintenance crew and examined by a state game warden, according to the L.A. Times. It’s believed that the bear was first hit by a car on either Wednesday or Thursday, before either the driver or someone the driver knew took the organ and paws.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan told the Times he believes it was a "crime of opportunity." It's also relatively common for young bears between one and two years old to be found on their own, as their mothers are typically ready to reproduce again.

You may be wondering why someone would want a bear's paws and gallbladder.

Bear gallbladders and the bile they create sell for quite a bit when sold overseas. The bile is believed to have medicinal properties, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine, and especially when it comes to liver and gallbladder problems in human beings. Bear bile, unlike the bile of other mammals, contains ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA), which is a coveted active ingredient.

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In 1991, Ed Espinoza with the Federal Fish and Wildlife Service told the New York Times that while a gallbladder might sell in the continental U.S. for only $15, it could go for $1,500 in Hawaii or even $15,000 in Korea. This was of particular interest in 1991, as authorities investigated the death of 39-year-old Haeng Gu Lee, who was found stabbed in his Brooklyn apartment. Investigators discovered that the killers had stolen a number of bear gallbladders from three freezers.

In some countries, bears are farmed for their bile, a practice that is considered inhumane by many. In a 2012 episode of Henry Rollins' Animal Underworld on Nat Geo WILD, Rollins visited and was horrified by a farm that allegedly extracted bile from bears in Vietnam, where bile farming was outlawed in 2006.

"There's barely any more cage than there is bear. There is nothing about this that is humane. It is disgusting," he said.

One particularly gruesome extraction method that involved keeping bears locked in metal 'torture vests' has been outlawed in China. If you're curious about that, The Dodo has photos of a bear rescued from this device in 2004. China and Vietnam have made efforts to eradicate bear farming.

Poachers in North America have hunted American black bears for some time now. In the late '80s and early '90s, U.S. park rangers began finding a number of dead bears missing their paws and gallbladders. Subsequent investigation revealed these poachers were smuggling bear parts overseas. Rings have been broken up in Virginia and Oregon by authorities, and it's estimated that in 2008, 40,000 bears were illegally hunted for their parts.

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And what about the paws? In some countries, bear paws are considered a delicacy.