Canadian Woman Sold Polar Bear Skulls to Undercover Agent, DOJ Says


  • A Canadian woman sold federally protected wildlife items to an undercover agent, the DOJ said.
  • Vanessa Rondeau, the owner of an oddity boutique, is facing multiple charges including smuggling.
  • According to the DOJ, she sold the polar bear skulls to the agent on two separate occasions. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A Canadian woman was arrested and charged after selling the skulls of polar bears, a species protected under federal law, to an undercover agent, the Department of Justice said Friday.

Vanessa Rondeau, 26, of Montreal, Canada, owns a local business called The Old Cavern Boutique that sells oddity items, « many composed in whole or in part from wildlife, » according to the DOJ.

An undercover United States Fish and Wildlife Service Special Agent reached out to Rondeau in September 2019 about a crow mount advertised on her page, the DOJ said. When the agent asked about potential problems with shipping the item to the US, due to it be a « protected species, » she said she had not had a problem before and labels the items as an »Art piece. » 

The DOJ said she also sold two polar bear skulls to the agent. The agent private messaged Rondeau on Facebook to inquire about the items. The first skull was sold to the agent for $750 plus a $30 shipping fee. The agent, located in Buffalo, New York, received it in February 2020, according to the DOJ.

About a year later, the agent contacted Rondeau again for another polar bear skull that she was selling on her business page. The agent agreed to purchase the second skull for $685, with an additional $35 shipping fee, the DOJ said. The agent received the skull in February 2021.

Recently, on Wednesday, she was stopped at the US border in Highgate Springs, Vermont, while attempting to enter Canada when authorities discovered that she had « numerous undeclared wildlife items » with her, according to the Associated Press and court documents.

The extensive list of items included: six shark jaws, 18 crocodile skulls and heads, one three-toed sloth, 12 horseshoe crabs, eight African antelope horns, 23 raccoon feet, 30 sea stars, and four pufferfish. A human skull « with mounted butterflies » was also found, court documents said.

The DOJ said Rondeau was charged with smuggling, Lacey Act Trafficking, and Lacey Act False Labeling. She faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. She has been released on a $50,000 bond, local outlet WIVB reported.