Bear parts smug­glers con­victed in long probe

Ottawa Citizen - - Navigator - NICOLE THOMP­SON

TORONTO • Five people have been con­victed of il­le­gal wildlife traf­fick­ing for smug­gling black bear parts from Saskatchew­an to On­tario, of­fi­cials from both prov­inces an­nounced Thurs­day as they wrapped up a two-and-a-half-year probe.

Four of those in­volved in traf­fick­ing the paws and gall­blad­ders were from Saska­toon and Sandy Bay, Sask., while the fifth was from Toronto, said Staff Supt. Lind­sey Couil­lard, man­ager of the in­tel­li­gence and in­ves­ti­ga­tions ser­vice of On­tario’s Min­istry of Nat­u­ral Re­sources.

“Those in­volved in the trade, they don’t stop at pro­vin­cial bound­aries. They were mov­ing the wildlife from Saska­toon to Toronto,” she said. “It’s very re­ward­ing to con­clude the case, be­cause we know this one will pro­tect the wildlife, but it also puts an end to a seg­ment of the il­le­gal black mar­ket.”

The sale of bear gall­blad­ders, which are thought to have heal­ing prop­er­ties, is il­le­gal. The bear paws were used to make soup and the fat was boiled down for use in skin creams, po­lice said.

Couil­lard said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­gan in early 2017 when of­fi­cers with the Saskatchew­an Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit learned about a restau­rant in Sandy Bay that was buy­ing black bear parts.

She said her of­fice got in­volved when they learned some of the prod­ucts were mak­ing their way to Toronto.

The Saskatchew­an side of the probe was more com­plex, said Insp. Dean Gris­dale of the Saskatchew­an Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tions Unit.

Sev­eral of­fi­cers went un­der­cover af­ter slaugh­tered bears were found at a garbage dump, rous­ing sus­pi­cion that some body parts were be­ing traf­ficked.

THOSE IN­VOLVED IN THE TRADE, THEY DON’T STOP AT PRO­VIN­CIAL BOUND­ARIES.

The of­fi­cers posed as hunters sell­ing gall­blad­ders that mostly came from road­kill or nui­sance bears that had to be killed for safety rea­sons, Gris­dale said, not­ing they were asked on sev­eral oc­ca­sions to pro­vide even more gall­blad­ders, but de­clined.

“We’re very cog­nizant of the fact that we’re not try­ing to sup­ply the mar­ket and cre­ate a greater de­mand,” he said.

He said the is­sue of gall­blad­der traf­fick­ing was most preva­lent in the 1980s and 1990s.

Ul­ti­mately, a Toronto woman was charged and con­victed of un­law­fully possess­ing black bear gall­blad­ders and fined about $3,000.

The four from Saskatchew­an, who were also con­victed of un­law­fully traf­fick­ing in bear parts, face fines that to­tal $67,370.

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