Across the world, wildlife populations are under pressure due to numerous threats. One of the most significant of these threats is habitat loss. But another threat, illegal poaching, is also taking its toll on wildlife across the world, including in the United States.
In the state of Montana, Game Wardens are fighting a unique kind of illegal trafficking, which sees the state’s black bear populations under assault as international poachers hunt the bears for their paws and gall bladders.
Bear bile refers to the digestive juices which is produced in the liver of bears and stored in their gall bladders. The substance is sold in many Asian markets for use in traditional Chinese medicines, and is popular in countries such as China, Korea, Laos, and Vietnam.
Bear paw soup is another popular delicacy made from the bear. Typically, the bears sought for their bile and paws include the Asiatic black bear, the sun bear, and the brown bear. But hunting the bears in the wild is not common. More often, the animals are raised in captivity for this purpose.
Published reports indicate that a dried gall can fetch up to $30,000 or more. Bear paw prices are up to $1,400 or more.
The exorbitant prices being paid for these bear parts have alerted Montana Game Wardens to the dangers facing the state’s black bears. Jim Kropp of the state’s Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Department said that typically Montana Game Wardens would not have these kinds of crimes on their radars, but that the state’s law enforcement officials must be responsive to international crime.
State officials are asking that the public do its part to help prevent illegal poaching. They ask that anyone with information regarding coaching activities calls 1-800-TIP-MONT to file a report.