Men arraigned on bear killing charges
Two men were arraigned on charges of illegally possessing bear parts Tuesday after allegedly being found with bear gall bladders and claws in Eldorado National Forest earlier this year.
Peter George Vitali, of Pioneer, and Arthur Martin Blake, of River Pines, pleaded not guilty in El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville on Tuesday. The men each face one felony charge and two misdemeanor charges related to illegally possessing bear parts, said California Department of Fish and Wildlife warden Mark Michilizzi.
The men were arrested by California Department of Fish and Wildlife officers April 20 near the intersection of Cat Creek Road and Highway 88, about 25 miles west of Kirkwood, Michilizzi said. Officers allegedly found 20 large bear claws and three bear gall bladders in the men’s possession.
“At the time of their arrest, bear season was closed in California,” according to a Friday statement from the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Evidence developed during the investigation suggested the suspects recently killed three bears, likely a sow and two cubs. The investigation determined that the claws, liver and gall bladder were removed from the sow and only the liver and gall bladder were removed from the other two bears.”
Bile contained in the gall bladders is sold on the black market because some believe it has medicinal properties. The price for bear gall bladder varies, Michilizzi said. High demand allows poachers to make a quick turn around on parts taken from bears, according to the warden.
“As long as that exists we’re going to continue these types of cases and focus on this type of enforcement,” Michilizzi said.
It is a felony to sell, purchase or possesses for sale any bear part, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife.