Black bear had been killed by car, but then its paws were cut off and stolen

ARCADIA, CA - MARCH 25, 2020 - A black bear wanders along Canyon Road on Wednesday March 25, 2020 in Arcadia. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)
California is home to as many as 35,000 black bears. One bear was recently mutilated after being struck. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A black bear's paws were stolen after the animal was fatally struck by a vehicle over the weekend.

The bear was hit Saturday near the community of Foresthill in Placer County, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Before someone was able to remove the bear from the road, its paws were cut off.

A motorist who saw the bear after it was killed noticed its missing paws and notified Fish and Wildlife, which has initiated an investigation.

"Possession of wildlife or wildlife parts is unlawful and is a misdemeanor-level violation of the Fish and Game Code," said Capt. Patrick Foy of the department's Law Enforcement Division.

The responsible party could face a fine of up to $1,000.

The woman who spotted the bear and contacted the agency described the distressing scene to KCRA-3.

"The bone was clean cut," Jordyn Pari Davies said. "The flesh was still fresh. It was red."

It's unclear why someone would steal a bear paw. Ann Bryant of the Bear League advocacy organization told KCRA-3 that some people turn them into souvenirs, such as ashtrays.

There are an estimated 25,000 to 35,000 black bears in California, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The bears are known to roam through neighborhoods, such as Monrovia, and are typically nonconfrontational.

Those who encounter a black bear are advised to slowly give the animal space without turning away from the bear and to "act big" if it becomes aggressive.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.