Killing Black Bears and Selling Their Gall Bladders

Photo of mother black bear.

Black Bear, Yellowstone National Park

Recently I wrote that the elk are dropping their antlers in Point Reyes National Seashore and the Park Service is busy picking up the antlers before the antler traders find them and remove them (which is illegal).  I mentioned that while bad enough, at least the antler thieves don’t kill the elk for the body parts as happens with animals such as bears, tigers and elephants.  The next day I opened my local paper to learn that someone in my city, which is located not more than 30 miles from San Francisco, was arrested while poaching a black bear in the Mendocino National Forest.  More black bear parts, namely a head, five paws, a penis and gall bladder, were in his freezer at home.  According to the article, black bear gall bladders sell for $5,000 on the black market.  A bad as these killings are, the real problem is the demand by some in the Asian community for bear and tiger parts for their supposed value as aphrodisiacs.  Tigers are nearing extinction due to this demand.  I wonder if there has ever been any study to support or refute this belief.


About Jim Coda

I am a nature photographer living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I specialize in photos of birds, mammals, and landscapes.
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11 Responses to Killing Black Bears and Selling Their Gall Bladders

  1. Johng370 says:

    I value the post.Thanks Again. Awesome. ecadedaebeee

  2. I read this and thought that it was so interesting. I hate that there are poachers out in the world. I actually had to look up what sells in the black market for a black bear for my environmental studies biology class, and your post was on the top of the list that was actually correct. Thank you for this information. I will eventually put a post on here about red foxes.

  3. John Wall says:

    Jim, I doubt a study would be of any use. The parts are going to people who believe they have great value, and I doubt an academic tome would have much impact on them. There are plenty of people who would never let the facts get in the way of their cherished beliefs.

    What struck me about your post, though, was that park rangers pick up the antlers! I didn’t know that, and I don’t understand it. I thought you were supposed to leave the antlers in place because they are useful nutritional supplements to the various rodents and whatnot that gnaw on them. I don’t see how park rangers picking them up is any better than someone else picking them up. What am I missing here?

    • Jim Coda says:

      Hi John. I think a study could be of some use, assuming it concluded the body parts were of no benefit (which I assume would be the case). Then it would be a matter of education. There was a time when I believed things like vitamin C and echinacea could ward off colds. Studies showed that not to be the case and I stopped believing in them. Now I do what the medical community does and follow basic hygiene rules and haven’t had a cold in many years. I agree with you to some extent though. If a study were done with the conclusion that the body parts have no such effects, some would never learn of the study or its conclusion. Further, some would not let science and fact get in the way of their beliefs.

      You raise a good question about the antlers. I’ll see if I can get some better information on this. My understanding is that the thieves take quite a lot of antlers and would take take the rest if the Park Service didn’t collect them. I think the Park Service is trying to hold down the illegal trade. The basic problem, of course, is that there is a market which causes the thieves to do what they do.

      Update: I found out from the Park Service that it puts the antlers in a chipper and then it re-distributes the chipped remains in the park. So, no net loss to the animals that consume the antlers. It seems like a lot of work on the part of the Park Service to make sure the critters get their calcium and other minerals. It’s unfortunate the thieves deprive them of the benefits of the antlers they steal.

  4. Great photo of this beautiful bear.. Just makes me sick how people can do such a thing.. You hear about people going the extra mile to protect certain animals and nature, but I do wonder about the bears, tigers and elephants, especially the ones that are happening in our area/state?

    • Jim Coda says:

      Thanks Michele. I think the people that are protecting them do as good a job as they can, but they have inadequate resources. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the way it is now.

  5. Pat Ulrich says:

    Nice shot of the black bear, Jim. It’s always awful to hear about poaching of species for their body parts. You’ve mentioned about the poaching of tigers, and there is a debate over the use of tiger farms to fill the demand for their parts. However, some think that having the availability of legal tiger parts is increasing demand in China, which is causing more poaching of wild populations. (

    • Jim Coda says:

      Thanks Pat and thanks for the link to the article. I knew they had bear farms in China, but wasn’t aware of tiger farms. I find this stuff to be unbelievable. Again, I wish there were a study (or studies) to disprove all of this. (Yes, I do believe any study would disprove any belief as to the sexual or other benefits of consuming animal bones, penises, gall bladders etc.)

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