Man tries to sell cubs after killing mother bear, authorities say
All the man was trying to do, he told authorities, was find the bear cubs a good home.
California Department of Fish and Game wardens are investigating a Northern California man found Wednesday outside a gas station with two baby black bears in a cage, department spokesman Patrick Foy said.
A passerby in North San Juan, 75 miles northeast of Sacramento, called a Fish and Game poaching line and said the man was selling the bears, Foy said. Nevada County sheriff's deputies and a game warden went to the Sierra Super Stop, where the man told authorities he was "just trying to find them a good home."
The reason, he said, was because he had shot and killed their mother on his property a few days before.
"He told us he had shot the mother bear in self-defense and the mother bear ran off, leaving the cubs behind," Foy said. "He apparently kept the cubs for a couple of days, then made his decision."
Authorities went to the man's property to look for the mother bear's body, Foy said, but haven't found any sign of her. The man didn't have any injuries indicating a bear encounter.
"There's a lot of parts to this person's story that don't add up," Foy said.
Experts guess the cubs, a male and female that weigh 11 and 13 pounds, are between 5 and 6 months old. Although they're in good health, they are too young to be released to the wild, Foy said, which is why they will spend several months at a rehabilitation facility in South Lake Tahoe.
There, caretakers will try and raise them with "minimal human contact," so they can be released in the wild this winter, Foy said. The hibernating bears will then be taken to the forest, where officials will place them in a makeshift den.
"Then we hope they go back to sleep and wake up a few months later," Foy said.
Authorities are still investigating what the man was doing with the bears. It's a felony to traffic bear parts in California, and Foy said a district attorney's office could be asked to determine whether this situation applied.
A woman who answered the phone at the gas station Thursday said the man was not trying to sell the bears, but declined to elaborate.
Foy, who has worked at Fish and Game for 16 years, said he once saw a man who had a mountain lion as a pet — but nothing like this.
"This is the first time I've ever seen anybody possess bears for any reason like this," Foy said.
— Kate Mather
Photo: California Fish and Game said two baby black bears found outside a gas station Wednesday are between 5 and 6 months old. Credit: Fox 40