Missing Meatball Already
Way back when I was a kid, we used to sing a parody version of “On Top Of Old Smokey” that went something like: “On top of spaghetti, all covered with cheese; I lost my poor meatball, when somebody sneezed!”
I know it’s an odd connection, but last week I couldn’t help but hear that ditty playing in my head when I read that our beloved local celebri-bear “Meatball” had been trapped once again. This time, however, he wasn’t simply taken deep into the Angeles National Forest (but never deep enough, apparently) and released, only to reappear in someone’s backyard refrigerator or swimming pool within weeks or even days. No, this time authorities decided it was time to give the 400-pound porker-of-a-bear a one-way ticket out of Dodge.
As had been ably reported by media outlets from the CV Weekly to national networks, last Wednesday Meatball was captured for a third and final time and taken to an animal sanctuary in Alpine (near San Diego) aptly named Lions, Tigers and Bears. Oh, my.
Unfortunately, once at the sanctuary the bear showed his true gastronomic standards. After his arrival, according to online reports, Meatball’s handlers became concerned that he wasn’t eating well. They quickly solved that problem with mountains of meatballs donated by local restaurants. Well, of course.
Thanks to fundraising efforts of several local animal rescue advocates, Meatball may be transferred to a more permanent home at the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo. With more than 290 animals including lions, black bears, grizzly bears, tigers and leopards, he’d be in good company.
Many locals (my dear wife included) were saddened to learn that Meatball has been permanently removed from this bowl of pasta we call the Crescenta Valley. I have to admit, it’s been kinda fun to think that our community had its own “mascot,” even if it was the kind that attracts hovering news choppers and panicky calls to 911.
But I completely understand the need to permanently remove this increasingly aggressive and emboldened bear both for his own good and ours. As cute as they may appear, bears can be dangerously wild animals. They’re powerful, unpredictable creatures that – in spite of their shuffling and snuffling demeanor – can attack with lightening quick reflexes at the slightest provocation. Just last month a photographer hiking in Alaska’s Denali Park was fatally mauled by a grizzly. Winnie the Pooh they ain’t.
Bears without fear of human beings, like Meatball, can be the most dangerous kind. In the high altitude town of Mammoth Lakes, where I escape as often as possible, there are just too many bears in and around the town to “relocate” them all. So residents and officials have learned how best to live with each other. In Mammoth the mantra is, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” Meaning if you make it easy to get to food, a bear will do whatever it takes to eat that food. That’s why nearly every truck, car, bike and snowboard in town has a sticker on it that reads, Please Don’t Feed Our Bears!
Mammoth residents know first hand that bears will keep coming back to wherever food is easiest to find, whether it’s a trash can, campsite cooler or food left in a car. Eventually the animals will either wind up having to be shot and killed by Fish & Game officers or, as happens all too often, hit by a car while crossing the road.
Coincidentally that’s exactly what happened to yet another bear in La Cañada only days before our latest visit from Meatball. And sadly, that bear was so gravely injured it had to be put down by Animal Control authorities.
On another note, I find it interesting (you’re probably not surprised) that this particular bear was hit on Foothill Boulevard near the McDonalds. Maybe he had a hankering for Big Macs instead of meatballs.
I’ll see you ’round town.