Jury finds North San Juan man guilty on three counts in bear cub case
March 22, 2013
A jury has found a North San Juan man accused of killing a mother bear and trying to give away its cubs guilty on three counts, but was hung on a fourth count. Christopher Puett had been charged with unlawful possession of a restricted animal, harassing an animal, unlawful taking of a bear and the taking of a female bear with cubs.
He had testified that he shot the sow because he was in fear for his life and took its two cubs to a gas station to give away because he wanted to find them a good home.
Jurors did not convict on the charge of unlawful taking of a bear, which was related to the mother bear, possibly because no body was ever found. According to California Fish & Wildlife warden John Lawson, "taking" in the Fish & Wildlife code can mean to hunt, pursue, capture, kill, or attempt to kill an animal.
Puett had told Lawson he had been having problems with the bear and that he had shot it with birdshot on one occasion and then with rock salt.
Puett said that on June 4, 2012, he had heard scuffling and had yelled at the bear, which charged him. He told Lawson after he shot the bear, it ran off.
"I didn't want to shoot her," Puett testified Tuesday. "I had to … She was coming at me. I was scared to death."
Puett said he had no idea she had cubs until he heard them crying, and that he eventually snared the male cub; the female cub, he said, went into the cage on her own. According to Puett, he called the Department of Fish and Game, which he said told him to either shoot the cubs or leave them there; that account was disputed by biologist Sara Holm, however.
On Wednesday, the jury did find Puett guilty of unlawful possession of a restricted animal, harassing an animal, and the unlawful taking of the bear cubs. He was set to be sentenced March 28.
According to Deputy Attorney General Tiffany Dix, who prosecuted the case, Puett faces a maximum of six months for each count.
To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.