A Northern California man is under investigation after The Nevada County Sheriff's department found two black bear cubs in his possession at a North San Juan gas station on Wednesday.
The California Department of Fish and Game received a tip from a caller saying Chris Puett was trying to sell bears cubs at the Sierra Super Stop gas station.
Game Wardens, police officers who specialize in the fish and wildlife protection, are usually the first to respond to a rare call like this but due to limited staffing the local sheriff's department responded. When deputies arrived they observed Puett with two 4 to 5 month old cubs, said California Department of Fish and Game Warden Patrick Foy.
Puett denied trying to sell the cubs but was detained for questioning. "He immediately denied trying to sell the cubs and said he just wanted to find a good home for them", Foy said. "Bears can't be domesticated and it would be pretty horrible to keep a bear as a pet.
There weren't any witnesses there to confirm if Puett was in fact trying to sell the bears but the investigation expanded to his home when he revealed to authorities that he shot the mother bear earlier in the week.
Puett told authorities he shot the bear when she tried to get into his home for food. The California Department of Fish and Game sent game wardens to his home Thursday to search for her.
"Game wardens found some blood evidence on the property and will test it to see if it is bear blood," Foy said. "We use a trained dog to track the scent of bears but they didn't pick up on anything, so it's inconclusive."
The male and female cubs were transported to a facility in Rancho Cordova east of Sacramento. Once they arrived the veterinarian anesthetized them and performed a check-up to see if they were healthy.
After wildlife biologist Mark Kenyon examined the 11 and 13 pound cubs he decided they were in good enough condition to be rehabilitated. Despite their poor diet of dog food and having contact with humans Kenyon believes the cubs will eventually be ready for life in their natural habitat, Foy said.
The cubs will be taken to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Facility where they will have minimal human contact and caregivers will feed them food that is close to what they are going to forage on when they wake up.
"And then around February we will take them to a spot in middle of the woods and try to put them in a den where we hope they will go back to sleep for another month and wake up with their instincts intact" Foy said.
The investigation into how Puett came to possess the cubs is ongoing and he hasn't been cited or charged with a crime due conflicting stories. A formal complaint was sent to the District Attorney's office for review and a decision will be made in the coming days.
As to why people attempt to domesticate wild animals Foy had this to say, "It's far too common and is totally unacceptable," he says "We have a website called keepmewild.org that's designed to show people how to interact with wildlife. As they get older and much more powerful they are very capable of inflicting injury and even death to adults and children."