Paws are not the only commodities harvested from black bear. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine also use bear bile, and bear gall bladders to treat a variety of maladies ranging from fevers and erectile dysfunction to improving vision or as an aphrodisiac.
Although synthetic alternatives are currently available, there remains great demand for all organic, wild bear bile. As a result of the over harvest of wild populations of native bear in the region, bear farms have sprouted up throughout Southeast Asia, where captive bruins are regularly ‘milked’ for their bile, in a painful and gruesome process.
Prior to the development of synthetic alternatives, and the advent of bear bile harvesting technologies, most of the bear parts sold overseas originated in the wild. And they still do, with prime gall bladders from wild specimens fetching upwards of $3,000 on the black market.
According to Alan Green, an investigative journalist and author of Animal Underworld, the illegal trade in exotic species and animal parts is estimated to generate over $25 billion annually. It is big business, and it remains second only to the global drug trade in terms of illegal dollars. Due to the burgeoning new wealth of the Far East, there are growing concerns over the increasing exploitation of wild bear populations, worldwide, especially in Russia, and North America.
New York, with an estimated population of more than 6,000 black bears, has long been a major supplier of bear parts, and taxidermists across the state continue to legally purchase bear gall bladders, paws and claws for resale. It is one of only eight states in the entire nation that continue to permit the trade to flourish.
However, due to the lack of effective oversight and regulations, unscrupulous hunters may have been able to sell bear organs that came from animals harvested in Pennsylvania, New Jersey or elsewhere, to dealers in New York.
Joe Hackett is a guide and sportsman residing in Ray Brook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.