California Man Pleads Guilty to Stealing 2 Bear Cubs From Their Den; Officials Said Mama Bear Was Never Found

2 baby cubs snatched from its mother den; Cody Dylon Setzer, 29, of Yreka, pleaded guilty to the crime.

On April 28, 2020, the cubs were returned to their native habitat in Shasta County once LTWC officials said they grew old enough to survive on their own.

A Northern California man has pleaded guilty to taking two 4-week-old bear cubs from their mother's den and obstructing wildlife officers, according to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW). 

The man, identified as Cody Dylon Setzer 29, took the baby bears from their den in a tree that had fallen across a forest road, the CDFW said in a release issued on Tuesday.

The incident took place on March 9, 2019, when Setzer called wildlife officials informing them that he had found the cubs along the roadside on Highway 263 north of Yreka.

Officials said they found Setzer's story "suspicious." Once they began to investigate, they found that it was. According to their report, there had been no bear tracks or habitat found at the location where Setzer claimed he had found them.

"Bear cubs are 100% dependent upon the sow and if they had been wandering on their own they wouldn't have survived," said Capt. Patrick Foy of the department's law enforcement division.

The department's captain said a co-worker of Setzer's was with Setzer when he found the cubs but had been cooperating with the authorities, and the co-worker took investigators to the location of the den site, which was located east of Salt Creek and Interstate 5 in Shasta County, about 90 miles south of where Setzer said he had found them. Foy said the area had been destroyed, and the cubs' mother was never located.

Officials said both men work at a local timber management company.

The bear cubs were transported to CDFW’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Rancho Cordova and transported to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care (LTWC) for rehabilitation.

According to the LTWC, the cubs were the youngest wildlife ever brought to their facility. Once the cubs were nursed back to health and grew strong enough to survive on their own, they were returned to their native habitat in Shasta County in April 2020, wildlife experts said.

In November, Setzer pleaded guilty in Siskiyou Superior Court to possession of a prohibited species and obstructing a peace officer in the course of his duties, officials said, according to the release.

Setzer was ordered to pay $2,290 in fines and fees and complete 200 hours of community service. He was also placed on probation for 12 months with his hunting and fishing privileges suspended for the duration of his probation. Additionally, he was also sentenced to 90 days in the county jail, which will be stayed if he successfully completes probation, CDWF said, the release said.

On Tuesday, the CDWF posted on their blog encouraging the public that if they see a poaching or polluting incident, or any fish and wildlife violation, or have information about such a violation, they should contact the authorities immediately.

Their toll-free number is 1-888 334-CALTIP (888-334-2258), is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

According to CDWF, tips may also be submitted anonymously using tip411. Once the tip is submitted, they said, a wildlife officer will respond. Tips may also be sent via text to the CDFW by texting "CALTIP", followed by a space and the message, to 847411 (tip411).

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