In May of 2021, a gruesome scene struck North Shuswap, B.C. Passersby stumbled upon dozens of skinned and severed bear paws scattered across Forest Road 695 in the Little Shuswap Lake Band territory, a local Indigenous Nation.
Initially, B.C.’s Conservation Officer Service suspected poaching, but after a year-long investigation, the service has finally uncovered who was responsible for the discarded animal parts: a taxidermist.
The bear paws fell out of the back of a taxidermist’s truck while driving along Forest Road 695 last spring. In a statement released at the time of the incident, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) estimated that there were between 80 to 100 bear paws scattered along the road.
Conservation officers confirmed that the taxidermist was in legal possession of the bear paws and that the wildlife parts have no connection with poaching or any black market trafficking.
The taxidermist is cooperating with authorities, the Conservation Officer Service said in a statement. Typically, the incorrect disposal of wildlife parts would land the taxidermist a $115 littering fine under the Environmental Management Act. But in lieu of the fine, the taxidermist has offered a substantial donation to the Little Shuswap Lake Band’s Watershed Stewardship Guardian Program. The program is designed to train community members in bear awareness, public safety, and attractant management.
“The [Conservation Officer Service] and the [Little Shuswap Lake Band] are pleased this donation will have a more meaningful impact to the community and wildlife,” the Conservation Officer Service said.
The service did not release the size of the donation, but did say that it far exceeded the amount of the littering fine.
Any wildlife carcasses or parts, regardless of whether they’re the result of hunting, taxidermy, or other activities, must be disposed of in a lawful and ethical manner, the service stressed. Kamloops, the closest major city to where the incident took place, states that small wildlife can be double bagged and placed in a garbage bin, while larger wildlife needs to be brought to landfill sites.
“This is to avoid alarming passersby, as well as attracting dangerous wildlife to an area frequented by people, which can create a public safety risk,” the service said.
Individuals who witness wildlife carcasses or parts being disposed of improperly in B.C. can report the violation to the Report All Poachers and Polluters (RAPP) hotline at 1-877-952-7277. If the incident occurs outside of B.C., look up the local Ministry of Natural Resources or conservation authority. Every province in Canada has a hotline for reporting poaching.