The California Department of Fish and Game has rolled out the welcome mat for Southern California’s favorite black bear Meatball, saying the beloved bruin can stay for good in his San Diego sanctuary.
The suburban bear was captured in Glendale last month, and has since been considered a ward of the state. The department felt it was in their best interest to keep Meatball in San Diego, according to department spokesperson Dana Michaels.
“The decision’s been made, the bear’s gonna stay here,” said Bobbi Brink, founder and director of Lions Tigers and Bears, where Meatball was taken to live temporarily, but has now committed to housing him permanently.
Meatball's permanent residence has been the subject of much debate since his capture. He was destined for the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado when wildlife officials first decided to remove him from the wild.
However, state law in Colorado forbids wild animals from staying in animal sanctuaries like the one in Colorado.
The sanctuary took legal action to attain Meatball, but court action was delayed after the California Department of Fish and Game made their decision to keep Meatball in San Diego.
Now, the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado is filing a petition to repeal the state law keeping Meatball out.
“This regulation has to get repealed so the next wild animal doesn’t get stuck in this rigmarole,” said WAS Founder and Executive Director Pat Craig.
Craig says he believes once the law gets repealed, California will have “no reason not to send him to Colorado,” where the sanctuary already has an enclosure ready for him. He said some members of the California Department of Fish and Game have said this to him as well.
Michaels said the likelihood of Meatball going to Colorado is just speculation at this point and that for now, the department intends to keep the bear in San Diego.
In the meantime, Lions, Tigers and Bears is kicking off the campaign to fund Meatball’s sanctuary. SDG&E donated the poles needed for the enclosure, but Brink estimates that they might need another $100,000 for the fence, electricity and other features.
For now, the sanctuary is building a temporary bedroom for Meatball. He may be quarantined for another month before being introduced to the other bears in the sanctuary.
So far Meatball is adapting nicely in Alpine, Brink said. Turning from his famed habit of eating junk food from suburbanite garages and trash cans, he’s taken a liking to avocados and nuts, and has gained a healthy amount of weight.
For more on the Lions, Tigers and Bears sanctuary, check out its website.