Bear With Head and Paws Cut Off Found on California Roadside, Authorities Say

A bear with its head and paws cut off was found beside a road in Northern California, authorities have said.

An unidentified woman made the gruesome discovery while exploring area with her children. It was found off Sugar Pine Road near Foresthill, around 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, CBS 13 reported. Its head and paws were nowhere to be seen.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said poachers may have killed the bear. The agency has now launched an investigation into the incident.

A local news report published by CBS 13 included information raising the possibility that the bear may have been tortured. But the department told Newsweek there is "no evidence" that the bear was tortured.

One local, Jim Forman, told CBS 13 he couldn't understand why someone would kill a bear in such a way, saying that the person or people responsible could eventually move on to hurting humans. "If you torture animals, people are not that far removed from that type of crime—in other words, somebody who does that might well progress," he said.

Another local told CBS 13 she was disgusted by the bear's death, saying: "It makes me sad to know somebody could do something like that."

The only species of bear in California are black bears. The CDFW estimates that there are between 25,000 and 35,000 black bears in the state. Although they are the smallest of the three bear species native to North America, these animals can weigh up to 500 pounds.

To hunt bears in California, a license is required and you need a bear tag, which is valid only for one specific animal. Hunters must also notify CDFW officials after an animal is killed.

It is illegal to sell bear parts in the state, although hunters can keep any part of the bear for themselves—apart from the skull, which must be handed over to the CDFW.

Officials said they investigate at least one case of potential bear poaching every year, although they have never come across a case where the animal's head and all four paws were missing.

One of the first steps in the investigation of the incident that occurred near Foresthill will be determining how the bear died—whether it was shot or hit by a car first before being decapitated. Officials will also monitor the black market to see if they can find any sign of someone selling bear parts.

The Fish and Wildlife department are asking any members of the public who saw something suspicious in the area when and where the carcass was found to come forward with any information.

Correction 10/23/20, 11:21 a.m. ET: This article was updated to carry a statement from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife that they do not suspect the bear was tortured. The headline has also been updated to reflect this.

black bear
Stock image: A North American black bear. A bear was found decapitated in Northern California. iStock