Man pleads guilty to taking two bear cubs from Northern California den

Two tiny brown bear cubs curl up against each other on a blanket
The two tiny bear cubs are pictured after their recovery by California wildlife officers. They have since been released back into their native habitat.
(California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

A Siskiyou County man pleaded guilty to stealing two weeks-old bear cubs from a Northern California den in 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said this week.

Cody Setzer, 29, of Yreka took the cubs when they were estimated to be less than 4 weeks old, authorities said.

The investigation began in March 2019, when Setzer contacted wildlife officers, claiming that he had found the cubs along Highway 263, north of Yreka.


“A wildlife officer became suspicious of Setzer’s story when no bear tracks or habitat were found at the location where Setzer claimed he had found them,” the Department of Fish and Wildlife said in a release.

The cubs were taken to the department’s Wildlife Health Laboratory in Rancho Cordova, where DNA testing revealed they were probably born in the Sacramento River Canyon in northern Shasta County, nearly 100 miles south of where Setzer said he found them.

After months of turkey attacks on mail carriers, one USPS worker is under investigation for killing an aggressive bird, wildlife officials say.

“During the investigation, wildlife officers determined Setzer and a co-worker at a local timber management company took the cubs from a den inside a tree that had fallen across an access road to a work site,” the department said.

The co-worker took officers to the site, where they collected evidence from the den that had been destroyed by the co-worker and Setzer, wildlife officials said.

The cubs’ mother was never found.

It was unclear what Setzer and his co-worker, who was not charged in the incident, planned to do with the cubs. But Capt. Patrick Foy of the state wildlife agency’s law enforcement division said their behavior was consistent with incidents in which people take a wild animal, such as a deer fawn, as a pet.

After a few days, the people “realize it’s more than they can handle,” Foy said.

The cubs were eventually turned over to Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, the youngest ever taken to the facility, officials said, and after growing old enough to survive in the wild, they were released into their Shasta County habitat on April 28, 2020.

Setzer pleaded guilty in November to charges of possession of a prohibited species and obstructing a peace officer, the Department of Fish and Wildlife said this week. He faces $2,290 in fines, 200 hours of community service and 12 months probation — with his hunting and fishing privileges suspended — after his guilty pleas in the bear case and another unrelated case.

An additional 90-day county jail sentence will be stayed upon completion of his probation.