Illegal Bear Poaching On The Rise At Lake Tahoe

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The killing of innocent animals, for medicinal purposes. Bear advocates say it happens more often than you may think.

Police in Redding, arrested a San Diego man this weekend for illegally trafficking bear gall bladders.

54-year-old Huong Tovan is accused of buying and selling the wild animal's body parts, to make a profit on its so-called medicinal powers.

bear advocates claim, some 30 bears at Lake Tahoe have been poached, so far this year, for this they say that's a conservative estimate.

While one man in California could face fines and other punishment for poaching, bear advocates feel they still have a long way to go.

Ann Bryant runs the Bear Education Aversion Response team, or the BEAR League on Tahoe's west shore. She says the underground business of illegal bear hunting has been going on for thousands of years.

"This is poaching. This is the most crooked, evil thing we can do to our wildlife."

Bryant says poachers use the bear's gall bladders for medicinal purposes in parts of Asia. She says most often, they're used as an ailment to cure stomach problems....and it's a multi-million dollar business on the black market.

"It's very profitable. When it's pulverized and turned into its powder form, which is the way they sell it, it's worth more than its weight in gold."

When poachers take a gall bladder, they usually leave rest of the body behind. Bryant says strong-smelling bear bait is what lures them in.

"They just make a gash in with a knife and reach in and take out the gall bladder."

Bryant says she and other bear advocates in Tahoe have seen more abandoned bear carcasses in the Tahoe Region this year than ever before...she thinks, mostly to do with the fact that bears have been more visible this year. The drought has sent them down into the Tahoe basin, looking for food...a fact that's been widely publicized.

"Our bears here in Tahoe got a lot of media attention this summer. We were on Good Morning America. We were in the New York times."

Bryant says poachers too have been paying attention. Low staffing on game wardens, along with an an abundance of bears, is part of the problem....and Bryant says we can be part of the solution.

"Call the BEAR League, call the Sheriff. We've gotta get these guys."

Bryant says spotting a poacher isn't easy, since they usually hunt illegally only in some of the most remote parts of the forest. If you do see a bear carcass or a bear hunter with a suspicous appearance, Bryant urges you to report it immediately.

Bear hunting season in California started in August, and ends in December or once 1,700 bears have been killed.

Bryant says an ethical bear hunter will have a legitimate license and will readily show it to, you may be able to tell by how much gear they have with them.

A real hunter will have a means to carry the entire bear body out of the forest...but a poacher may only have a small ice chest...just large enough to carry the gall bladder.