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Man found with cubs at gas station denies trying to sell bears

June 12, 2012 | 11:27 am

A Northern California man found with two caged bear cubs outside a gas station last week said he wasn't trying to sell the tiny ursines.

Instead, he said, he "saved some orphans" after shooting their mother.

California Fish and Game wardens are investigating Chris Puett, who lives in North San Juan, about 75 miles northeast of Sacramento, after Puett was found with the cubs Wednesday afternoon, officials said. Puett told authorities he came across the cubs after shooting their mother on his property.

Puett told The Union he spotted the cubs' mother several times around his Nevada County property, where he keeps five dogs, 50 ducks and more than 20 cats.

He fired warning shots at the bear in previous encounters, he told the newspaper. Once he hit the bear in the head with a tire iron. Another time, he said, he shot it with rock salt.

But the night of May 3, he said, enough was enough. The bear was back, snooping through some dog food next to a blind dog. When Puett yelled at the bear, she charged.

"I'm trying to defend my life and my animals' lives," he told the newspaper. "If all I wanted to do was kill a bear, I could have done it last year. I want to keep the animals alive."

Puett fired a Mossberg 500 shotgun at the bear through a flap in his tent, he said. By the time he got out, she was gone.

Then he found the two cubs in a tree.

"I had no idea it had cubs," Puett said of the mother bear.

After spending about 18 hours coaxing the cubs out of the tree, Puett said he called the Department of Fish and Game, which he said told him to either shoot the bears or let them go.

Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy told the newspaper there was no record of the call, and the department would not tell anyone to shoot cubs.

Officials began investigating Puett after a tipster said he was selling the baby bears outside a gas station in North San Juan. Game wardens searched his property for the body of the mother bear without any luck and questioned Puett's story.

The cubs, a male and female estimated to be about 5 or 6 months old, were taken to a rehabilitation center in South Lake Tahoe, Foy said. The cubs were in good shape, he said, but are too young to be released into the wild just yet.


Man tries to sell cubs after killing mother bear, authorities say

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Bear disrupts Bakersfield graduation, forces playground evacuation

— 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: Fox40 in Sacramento.