TRUCKEE - State wildlife officials in California are investigating whether a bear hit by a car near Lake Tahoe may have had its organs removed for sale on the black market.

      The state patrol notified transportation officials about a bear carcass on state Highway 89 south of Truckee Monday night.

      "Somebody took it to the side of the road with surgical equipment cut off the genitals and gall bladder. That's all illegal," said Ann Bryant of the BEAR League.

      The bear appeared to be three or four years old, weighing about 200 to 300 pounds, she said.

      Mark Lucero, patrol captain with the Department of Fish and Game, said the organs are sold on the black market, generally as an aphrodisiac or for medicinal purposes overseas.

      Bryant said the biggest market is in Asia, where the prized organs have caused poaching to deplete native populations, spreading the black market to America.

      Gall bladders can fetch $500 nationally, or as much as $5,000 in Asia, Lucero said.

      Killing a bear for its body parts is a felony offense, Lucero said. In the case of the bear killed by a car, the charge would be misdemeanor unlawful possession of bear parts, he said.

      "Without witnesses this is going to be a tough case to make," Lucero said. But he said a bloody rubber glove was found near the bear, which can be run for finger prints.

      Bryant said there are two to three reports a year of bear carcasses locally missing organs, paws or heads.

      But Lucero said there isn't any organized black market in the Truckee-Tahoe area.

      "We suspect the person just happened to come upon the bear," Lucero said.