The paws come from bears killed legally by hunters and also by poachers. But because any export of paws is illegal, the entire trade is banned, Yuri N. Privalov, the minister of natural resources for the Amur region, said in an interview. He conceded that the illicit trade was thriving all the same. Efforts to stanch the traffic run up against the powerful lure of quick money or, experts say, a man's need to slake an alcoholic thirst -- though seemingly only in a Siberian village would this seem an easy way to get a drink. "A guy has nothing to do in a village," explained Oleg V. Lezin, the owner of a taxidermist shop in Blagoveschensk. "He takes a dog and tracks down a bear in the forest, kills it and chops off the paws. He can sell those paws for 1,500 rubles a kilogram. Then he comes into town and gets something to drink, and he's all right until the next bear." Those 1,500 rubles would be worth about $50. The paw trade has damaged hunting traditions with deep roots in Siberia, the taxidermist said, turning a hallowed male winter ritual into a mercantile exercise. Traditionally, Russian bear hunters would find a den burrowed into the roots of a cedar tree, gingerly approach and take a position on the opposite side of the tree from the opening. Then they would make a clamor, or throw in a burning plastic bag. When the bear scrambled out, snorting and angry, the hunters would lean around the tree and shoot it.