Polar bear skulls shipped to New York by boutique owner from Canada, feds say

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Federal criminal complaint

A polar bear skull was packaged and shipped in a box labeled as a “gift” when it was illegally mailed from Canada to the United States, federal officials said.

Now a 27-year-old woman and boutique owner from Montreal, Quebec, has pleaded guilty to trafficking protected wildlife, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of New York said in a Friday, Jan. 28 news release.

Vanessa Rondeau, owner of The Old Cavern Boutique in Montreal, is accused of shipping polar bear skulls and other protected wildlife parts to and within the U.S. from 2019 until 2021, including a taxidermy American crow, Hartmann’s zebra skin, and bird, weasel and bat skulls, a criminal complaint shows.

Rondeau’s attorney declined to provide McClatchy News with an immediate comment.

In addition to shipping a polar bear skull from Canada, Rondeau traveled to the U.S. and then shipped a skull to a special agent in New York who was pretending to be a customer in the state, an agent said in the complaint.

Rondeau marketed the polar bear skulls on her business’ Facebook page, The Old Cavern Boutique, the complaint shows.

She sold one skull for $780 and another for $584.11, court documents show.

In total, Rondeau is accused of trafficking a total of $37,204 in wildlife parts from Canada to the U.S., the news release states.

She faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Rondeau is scheduled to be sentenced on June 9.

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