According to officials at the California Department of Fish and Game, the illegal sale of wildlife and "wildlife parts" generates something like $100 million per year -- and it's going up, as hard economic times have forced the state to cut back on game wardens. Only 230 wardens regulate 159,000 square miles of land, including 1,100 miles of coastline going 200 miles out to sea. The number of game wardens in California is the lowest per capita in the U.S.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, game wardens have investigated the following:
-- Late last month, 11 people were arrested and 120 citations were issued in Sonoma and Mendocino counties after an elaborate ring of abalone poachers with headquarters in a hotel room was discovered.
-- In February, two people were arrested in Monterey County after they were caught with 51 black abalone, a federally listed endangered species.
-- In February, five antelope were fatally shot near Susanville by someone driving along a country road. The shooter just left the animals, two of which were pregnant, one with twins.
-- In 2007, a San Diego man was arrested by Redding undercover agents and charged with soliciting the killing of bears in Shasta County so he could buy their gallbladders. A gallbladder-processing operation was discovered when wardens arrested the man, who had a passport and tickets to fly to Southeast Asia. Bear gallbladders are used for medicinal purposes in Southeast Asia and can fetch $2,000 an ounce.
-- In Sacramento, a man was arrested after investigators used DNA evidence to identify the meat from 28 separate deer that had been shot in Calaveras, El Dorado and Placer counties. He was selling the carcasses from his house for up to $150 a piece. More....