vermont black bear
Credit: Vermont Fish & Wildlife

Vermont to Outlaw the Sale of Bear Body Parts on July 1: Find out What Parts

While prohibiting the sale of bear body parts like gallbladders and paws may sound strange, experts say the measure will help curb poaching.

Vermont will prohibit the sale of bear body parts like paws and gallbladders starting July 1. While it may sound strange to outlaw those particular body parts, advocacy groups say it will help authorities crack down on poachers.

Experts say bear organs are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine — an ancient holistic approach for treating physical and psychological issues. And some consider bear paws a delicacy. While most other states already outlaw the practice, Vermont's lack of policy has helped supply a black market.

Lt. Robert Currier, a spokesman with Vermont's Fish & Wildlife Department, told local media that the measure will de-incentivize black bear poaching. "Anytime that there's a black market that exists to exploit wildlife, it creates issues where wildlife could be potentially taken, just for those parts, and we're trying to combat those issues from arising in our state," Currier said.

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Why outlaw the sale of bear body parts now

Although TCM is thousands of years old, the Chinese government in 2022 promoted bear bile as a treatment for COVID-19. Groups like Animal Wellness Action say that endorsement possibly exacerbated the exploitation of bears worldwide.

While bear bile does have some medicinal qualities, medical researchers have been able to create artificial alternatives since the 1950s. Therefore, modern medicine has rendered traditional ways of extracting it — by removing a bear's gallbladder or using a catheter — obsolete.

In a statement last month, Bob Galvin, the state director of AWA and the Center for a Humane Economy, said: "We shouldn't kill rhinos for their horns or bears for their gallbladders, and we've got to stop thinking of rare megafauna as repositories for potions and treatments."

Currier explained investigators in his department found instances of wildlife traffickers offering Vermont hunters up to $200 for bear gallbladders and up to $25 for bear paws. Then, they'll sell them on the black market for 10 to 20 times as much.

What does the new law do

Under the new law, it's illegal to sell "the paws or internal organs of a black bear." However, you can sell the animal as a whole and bear meat during the hunting season.