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Vendor facing criminal charges

May 28, 2014

This “vintage restored” authentic bear claw necklace for sale on etsy.com is illegal in the state of California and could lead to fines and/or jail time for the seller and buyer. A local vendor could be facing charges after being caught trying to sell a similar item at Mule Days on Saturday. Photo from etsy.com

A vendor at Bishop Mule Days ran afoul of local game wardens – and California state law – over the weekend when he tried to sell a conscientious citizen a necklace made of bear claws.
Because the sale of any type of bear parts from any type of bear is illegal in California, the vendor, a local man, could face either misdemeanor or felony charges. Whether charges are filed at all, and at what level, will be determined by the Inyo County District Attorney’s Office.
According to Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Bill Dailey, no one was taken into custody, but the necklace was confiscated as contraband. No other vendors were cited.
The DFW was notified of the potential illegal sale on Saturday by the Bishop Police Department, which was notified by the citizen, who had been shopping and was offered for sale a necklace with five bear claws attached to it.
Dailey noted it doesn’t matter where the bear originated, or if it was sport-taken as the vendor claimed: selling, offering for sale, buying or offering to buy any bear parts is against the law in California.
The reason, he said, is simple: to prevent and discourage the commercialization of dead wildlife.
“We want to prevent a black market for this kind of material,” Dailey said, explaining that the black market demand leads to poaching and declining population numbers.
As is, black bears are a target for their gall bladders, which poachers take along with the bears’ paws as proof of authenticity. The gall bladders are considered an aphrodisiac in certain cultures, Dailey said, and there’s a big market for them.
The law doesn’t stop with bear parts, either.
Basically, any animal taken for sport cannot be sold in whole or part – including deer mounts, skins, stuffed hawks, eagle feathers, etc. The only exception, Dailey said, are deer antlers that have been cut up and fashioned into art pieces or those found as sheds.
Dailey was quick to point out that it’s not illegal to possess these objects, including bear claw necklaces. If a hunter legally takes bear and makes a necklace out of the claws, he or she is more than welcome to wear it or give it away as a gift. What the hunter cannot do it make a profit off of it. Likewise, the consumer cannot pay to own something that someone else killed.
Sales of such items tend to crop up on the Internet, on sites like eBay and Craigslist. According to other published reports, DFW wardens traffic these sites as part of routine sting operations, citing both sellers and buyers.
According to Dailey, who has worked on stings throughout the state involving illegal sales of wildlife parts, shoppers will see bear claw necklaces for sale in their lifetime – but most often they are fake, made of molded plastic as opposed to the real thing. “They’re easy to distinguish,” he said.
And the good news is that the sale of wildlife parts is not necessarily common in California.
“I wouldn’t say it is a common problem,” Dailey said. “Does it occur in the state? Periodically, yes.”

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