March 13 (UPI) — A Chinese man found to be illegally keeping an Asian bear as a pet told police he had found the animal as a cub and initially mistook it for a puppy.
Police acting on a tip from a neighbor who saw a post about the animal on social media visited the man’s home in Yongsheng county, Yunnan province, and found the 176-pound bear being kept in a cage.
The man, identified only by the surname Yang, told investigators he had found what he thought was a puppy while foraging for mushrooms in the mountains near his home in April 2015 and only realized it wasn’t a dog when it grew large.
Asian black bears are considered a protected species in China and those found to be keeping them without forest authority approval can face fines of up to $475, but authorities said Yang was not fined because the bear was found to be in good health and the man cooperated with the investigation.
The bear was turned over to the local wild animal protection department and transferred to an animal welfare center, police said.