The state Fish and Game Department is investigating a man who allegedly was trying to sell bear cubs at a Nevada County gas station Wednesday.
The agency said Thursday that it received a call on the CalTIP hotline and sent investigators to a gas station in North San Juan where the caller reported that a man was trying to sell two black bear cubs.
The man told game wardens that he shot the mother bear at his house in North San Juan in self-defense. Authorities said the man denied trying to sell the cubs and added that he claimed to be trying to find a good home for the animals that were abandoned in his yard when the mother ran away.
A man identified as Chris Puett, in an interview with KCRA-TV, said the mother bear stole food from his property for three nights in a row. He said he shot the bear with his shotgun in self-defense on the fourth night when it attacked him outside his trailer.
The man, who was unharmed, has not been charged or arrested in the case, authorities said.
Wardens seized the pair of 4- to 5-month-old, cinnamon-colored cubs and brought them to the state Fish and Game facility in Rancho Cordova.
Patrick Foy, a Fish and Game spokesman, warned against trying to keep wild animals, saying it's not good for the welfare of the animal and it can be a threat to humans. "It is unfortunately all too common that people try to grab animals. It's highly illegal and dangerous," he said.
Marc Kenyon, an environmental scientist and statewide bear program coordinator with Fish and Game, said the bear cubs are in good condition physically, but will need rehabilitation before they can be released into the wild. "They are not ideal candidates for rerelease because they have been around people," Kenyon explained.
Kenyon said the bears an 11.5-pound female and a 13.2-pound male will be transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation center in South Lake Tahoe. He said he hopes the bears can be released into the wild next spring.
Authorities did not find the mother bear, but did find a trace of blood outside the man's home that they will test. Foy said the bear was likely to die if it had been hit by the shot.
Kenyon said people need to be aware of wildlife when outdoors and it's best to leave wild animals alone.
"This is the time of year that bears are really active," said Kenyon. "With the grasses dying, there is a lull of natural food sources. People need to be aware. We always say 'If you care, leave them there.' "