A man is being investigated for allegedly trying to sell two small black bear cubs at a Northern California gas station. The bears are now in the custody of the Department of Fish and Game headquarters in Rancho Cordova.
On Wed., the Dept. of Fish and Game said it received a phone call on its poaching line from an individual who said they spotted a man selling two bears at a Sierra Super Stop in North San Juan.
The Los Angeles Times reported deputies from the Nevada County Sheriff's Dept. and a game warden went to the gas station where they found the man and the two cubs; the cubs were in a cage. The man indicated he had not been trying to profit from the bears, but was "just trying to find them a good home."
Purportedly, he was in possession of the bears because he'd shot the cubs' mother a few days earlier. He said he shot the mother bear in self-defense.
"He told us he had shot the mother bear in self-defense and the mother bear ran off, leaving the cubs behind," California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy told the Los Angeles Times. "He apparently kept the cubs for a couple of days, then made his decision."
The suspect is a man named Chris Puett. He denies trying to sell the cubs and says he wanted to find them a safe home after he'd killed their mother. He contends the mother bear repeatedly came onto his property and he feared for his family and his animals. On one of the bear's visits he said she came after him, so he fired his weapon.
"I'm sitting out there, shaking like a leaf," Puett told media. "I just shot a bear. I didn't want to shoot the bear."
He also asserts he originally called the Fish and Game Dept.
"I talked to Fish and Game," he said. "They said 'shoot the cubs or leave them there.' I know the age of animals -- their teeth were small. They need the Mama. They're going to die if they're out there. I don't want to make them die, I don't want to let them die."
Authorities are skeptical of the man's story and are investigating. Reportedly, officials initially found no evidence of the mother bear at the man's home and noted he had no injuries, but KSBW reports investigators did find blood on his property.
Foy said many aspects of the man's story "don't add up." He also provides guidance on proper protocol on what individuals should do if they come upon a bear.
Officials have yet to decide whether or not they will press charges. The 11-pound and 13-pound bears are reportedly doing well.
If Puett is charged, he could potentially face a felony.