Winter time, and the bear cubs at Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care are sleeping, deep in hibernation. But the story of how two of those bears came to be there is far from laid to rest.
“I was defending my life. I don’t feel that there should be penalties for defending my life,” said Chris Puett.
Puett is the man who shot the mother of two of those cubs, a brother and sister now sleeping through their first winter. While there are strict rule against poaching bears, and killing a bear with cubs, those rules don’t apply when the bear is charging or threatening a human life.
That’s what Puett said was happening.
Back when he shot the mother last summer, he said he killed her. And he collected her cubs in a cage, he said, until he could find someone to take the place of their mother. That is until…
“Until three weeks later when she showed up sitting in my backyard,” Puett said.
Puett used to run an animal rescue in the Bay Area. Now he lives at the edge of the Tahoe National Forrest with dozens of animals- dogs, cats, ducks and geese.
He says the cub’s mother was after some dog food when the two came face-to-face. He says he pulled the gun to the side when he fired so he injured, but didn’t kill her.
Still, the Department of Fish and Game isn’t buying it.
“They think my whole story is a bunch of bear poo,” Puett said.
Even though no one’s ever found the bear’s body, Puett says he’s facing some pretty stiff penalties for what he did that day.
“I do not want to forfeit my gun. I do not want to take a hunter safety course, because I wasn’t hunting. And the fine is a fine,” he said.
Puett says it all a little easier to take, though, because he knows the brother and sister cubs survived.
The two bears will be transfer within the next month, while they are in hibernation, to a den in the wild in or around the Tahoe National Forrest. The hope is that they will wakeup next Spring healthy and ready to live the rest of their lives in the wild.