Two days after the state Fish and Game Department confiscated two bear cubs and a shotgun reportedly used to kill their mother, a North San Juan man found Friday himself defending what he characterized as nothing more than protecting animals.
Chris Puett told The Union the cubs' mother had a history of encroaching on where he has lived for the last year and looked after five dogs, 50 ducks and around 20-30 cats.
Puett said had fired warning shots in previous altercations and also had hit the bear in the head with a tire iron and shot it in the posterior with rock salt.
But on the night of May 3, Puett said he heard the bear rifling through his dogs' food, which he said was next to a small, blind dog he looks after. When Puett yelled at the bear, he said it charged at him and he shot it through a flap in his tent with a Mossberg 500 shotgun.
"I'm trying to defend my life and my animals' lives," Puett said. "If all I wanted to do was kill a bear, I could have done it last year. I want to keep the animals alive."
By the time Puett got out of his tent, the bear was gone. But Puett said he knows he hit her.
Shortly thereafter, Puett heard what sounded like crying, and that is when he discovered the cubs in a tree.
"I didn't know it was a mother; I had no idea it had cubs," Puett said.
Puett said it took 18 hours to get the cubs down. He maintains that his retrieval of the young bears was for their own well being. He said he fed them and gave them water. Puett also said he called the Department of Fish and Game, which he said told him to either shoot the cubs or let them go. He said he didn't have the heart to do either.
Fish and Game spokesman Patrick Foy has said they have no record of Puett contacting them and would not advise shooting cubs.
On Wednesday, Fish and Game was contacted by a tipster who said someone was trying to sell a pair of bear cubs outside a North San Juan gas station.
"They were not for sale, not for free, except to a professional," Puett said. "I was trying to contact a professional bear rescuer, somebody that knows what they are doing. I didn't catch a wild animal. I saved some orphans."
Fish and Game searched Puett's property and found no dead bear, but they did confiscate his gun. The department also reportedly filed a case with the district attorney's office, although DA Cliff Newell said Friday he has not yet received any paperwork on the incident.
"By not having the heart to kill a bear's cubs, I am going to go to jail and my animals are going to die," Puett said.
The bear cubs have since been transferred to a wildlife rehabilitation center in South Lake Tahoe, Puett said, and are reportedly in good condition and will be reintroduced into the wild after they have grown larger.
"Which is all I ever wanted to happen," Puett said.
To contact Staff Writer Chris Rosacker, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4236