WOODFIN, N.C. (WSPA) — The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission is investigating the deaths of three bears found dismembered in Woodfin.

According to a spokesperson for the Wildlife Resources Commission, the department was notified on November 30 about “three bear carcasses found on private property in Woodfin, north of Asheville.”

The carcasses were dismembered, the paws were left on the scene, and the meat was removed to the extent that the bears’ weight and cause of death could not be determined. This is an active investigation. 

Mindy Wharton, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

The bears were discovered in a wooded area off Moore Street.

“We noticed a bear cub laying in the road here,” said Brian Bullman, who lives in the area. “Upon further inspection, we saw the remains of another cub and what appeared to be a mother bear dumped at the base of the tree.”

Bullman said he also found a bucket of bear intestines near the bodies.

“It was a pretty ugly scene,” said Bullman.

Jody Williams, the founder of Help Asheville Bears, told 7NEWS poaching is a problem in the area.

“Sometimes, people just want the meat and skin,” explained Williams. “In a lot of cases, they are trying to get the paws and gallbladders too because those are sold for big money on the black market for Asian medicines.”

If the person responsible for dismembering the bears is caught, Williams said he believes they will face multiple charges.

“It is highly illegal to kill a mom or cubs,” said Williams. “You get one bear tag a year as a hunter. This was three right here. Dumping them was also illegal.”

The town of Woodfin released the following statement in response to the dismemberments:

The tragic discovery of bear remains, including those of cubs, in the town limits of Woodfin represents a horrible act. Seasoned bear hunters know that even when legally taken, throwing bear remains like paws onto private property is a crime and killing a cub is never allowed.

Whether or not these animals were killed in our town does not minimize the anger that our residents feel today over this gruesome act. Black bears are protected in North Carolina and bear hunting is never allowed in the Town of Woodfin.

Whoever did this is heartless and hopefully will be prosecuted.

Jim McAllister, Vice Mayor

Help Asheville Bears is offering a $5,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest and conviction in this case. Anyone with information can call 855-SOS-BEAR or N.C. Game Warden Tip Line at 800-662-7137.