Brandi Hansen was out for a morning stroll with her young family in the north Shuswap on Sunday when they came upon what she estimates were 80 to 100 bear paws.
That’s 20 to 25 bears’ worth. She suspects they are victims of poaching.
“Just paws on top of paws on top of paws,” Hansen said. “They were just recklessly dumped in the culvert there.”
Discovered across the lake from Salmon Arm between Scotch Creek and Anglemont, they were dumped by a culvert, although some had been dragged to the road and scattered, likely by other animals.
All had been declawed and most of them had been skinned. Making the scene even more grotesque, skinned bear paws look a lot like human hands.
“It was really scary rolling up there with the kids,” said Hansen, mother to three children aged three to 17. “It looked like something out of a horror movie.”
Hansen is a sharpshooter, angler, pilot and search-and-rescue technician who grew up in Northern B.C. hunting. No hunter, nor any taxidermist she’s ever heard of for that matter, would dump animal parts like this.
“From a hunter’s perspective, I thought maybe it was a taxidermist because a lot of people take their bears to a taxidermist to get declawed for bear rugs and whatever,” she said. “Maybe a taxidermist just had a really poor choice of location?
“But when I took a closer look, there were cub paws and skulls, as well. A taxidermist would never touch a bear cub, and same for a hunter. As hunters, we care about this kind of stuff, too.”
Hansen reported the grisly discovery to conservation officers, who investigated on Monday, Hansen said.
Poachers put animal populations at risk and ruin lawful hunting for others, according to B.C. Conservation Officer Services.
No one from the department was available on Monday to talk about Hansen’s gruesome discovery, but according to its website poachers are generally motivated by greed, selling to foreign markets where they can receive “outrageous” sums of money for trophies and animal parts, mostly as Chinese medicine.
Indeed, bear claws are for sale all over the internet, for anywhere from $12 to $165 per individual claw — so say Hansen saw 80 paws, that’s 320 claws that could theoretically fetch … well, you can do the math.
“Whether they operate alone, or as part of organized crime, trophy and commercial poachers think that game laws only matter if they get caught,” Conservation Officer Services’ website says. “They kill with no regard for fish and wildlife, habitat or the rights of other resource users.”
The community to the north of Shuswap Lake is small and close, Hansen pointed out, so she doubts it was anyone local who dumped the body parts.
“We’re a small community, there are farmers, everybody is close-knit. The way these remains were dumped in a waterway culvert … we all know where our water comes from, it comes from the lake.”