Build a Bear … Habitat for Meatball

Call to action to raise funds for living quarters for foothills bear.

Photo courtesy LTB. It looks like Meatball will stay a California bear as fundraising begins for a new bear habitat to be built at Lions, Tigers and Bears, an exotic animal sanctuary in east San Diego.
Photo courtesy LTB.
It looks like Meatball will stay a California bear as fundraising begins for a new bear habitat to be built at Lions, Tigers and Bears, an exotic animal sanctuary in east San Diego.

By Mary O’Keefe

Crescenta Valley Weekly and Prom Plus have joined with Lions, Tigers and Bears, an exotic animal sanctuary in east San Diego, to help Build A Bear … Habitat for Meatball.

The fundraising has begun to help Meatball remain a California resident. The 500-pound bear, given his name because of his meatball- eating escapades in the Beechwood and Cedarbend drives area in Glendale, has had quite an adventure since he was first sighted in March.

The bear had been captured and returned to the Angeles National Forest twice before his August trip back to the area. This time he was found in a backyard in a La Cañada home, captured and sent to LTB.

Originally it was to be a temporary stay in the California sanctuary as Meatball was awaiting a transfer to the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado but, due to a glitch in the state’s regulation, the facility cannot accept the bear.

“It is unlawful in Colorado for the owner of a wildlife sanctuary to possess a bear taken from the wild. Out of respect for Colorado law, we do not intend to allow the bear (Meatball) to be transported there,” stated Andrew Hughan, spokesman for California Fish and Game.

“I can tell you this bear has the highest priority to the department,” Hughan said. “Everything that can be done will be done.”

LTB has actively started fundraising to build a habitat for Meatball.

“We need to do what’s best for Meatball,” said Bobbi Brink, founder and director of Lions, Tigers and Bears. “We are ready to begin building the habitat as soon as possible but need financial support from the public in order to get started.”

San Diego Gas & Electric has offered to donate 26-foot wooden poles to support the outdoor enclosure. LTB is waiting on the final estimate from contractors however it is thought to be several thousands dollars to complete the habitat.

“Meanwhile, LTB has begun the challenging process of getting Meatball accustomed to life in captivity. As a wild animal, he doesn’t understand how to live in an enclosure or that it’s okay to eat food provided by people. His instincts tell him to try to escape and to distrust people around him. This is why living in a small enclosure at this time is so important for his recovery,” according to a prepared statement from LTB.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado has filed a lawsuit against the state in an attempt to change the regulation.

“The actual law is different than the regulation,” said Pat Craig, executive director of the Colorado sanctuary.

The sanctuary is hoping to have the regulation changed to allow Meatball’s transfer. They are moving forward quickly with the legal action and plan to be in court early next week, Craig said.

It is not a race between Lions, Tigers and Bears and the Colorado facilities, however, Craig said.

The lawsuit is going forward and he added that if the San Diego facility can raise the funds for Meatball then that would be good for the bear. If the lawsuit goes the way the Wild Animal Sanctuary hopes, it will help them receive exotic animals from other states that request help.

“The only thing we care about is Meatball. We want him to get into a nice habitat,” Craig said.

From the beginning it was obvious this was not your average bear. He did not seem to be deterred by humans, as he would dine from what he found in outside refrigerators and garbage cans. He took dips in pools and leisurely ate from fruit trees.

The Glendale police posted flyers about Meatball, who was also known as Glen Bearian, in March. A Twitter account was made for him and he became a local celebrity but all the while, as his legend grew, California Fish and Game, law enforcement and many CV residents continued to remind everyone that this was a real bear, not a pet.

Meatball has become “habituated” – unafraid to enter areas of human habitation. Since habituated bears pose a potential threat to humans, they must be removed from the wild. Most are euthanized but Fish and Game chose to relocate Meatball instead, stated Jennifer Jenkins, LTB spokeswoman.

Crescenta Valley Weekly and Prom Plus want to work with the Crescenta Valley community and other organizations in building Meatball a home.

“This bear has captured the hearts of our community,” said CV Weekly publisher Robin Goldsworthy. “I know that folks will be eager to join us in Building a Bear Habitat for Meatball.”

For donation information or for any organization that would like to help fundraise, email or call (818) 248-2740.

“Let’s remind Meatball he may be gone but is not forgotten,” said Goldsworthy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.