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Glendale bear's ticket to Colorado is canceled

Wildlife officials say sanctuary slated to house 'Meatball' can't take in wild animals.

September 05, 2012|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • The famous Glendale bear readjusts in an enclosure after being captured in La Canada Flintridge on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
The famous Glendale bear readjusts in an enclosure after… (California Department…)

Colorado officials say the popular Glendale bear known as “Meatball” — trapped and taken to a temporary rescue facility in San Diego County — will not be permitted residency at a sanctuary in the Rocky Mountain state.

“This bear can’t come to Colorado,” said Randy Hamilton, spokesman for Colorado Parks & Wildlife, pointing to state regulations that prevent sanctuaries from accepting wild animals.

There’s been a tug-of-war over the 400-pound bear since he was caught last week in La Cañada Flintridge. He had already been relocated deep inside the Angeles National Forest twice after snacking on food such as meatballs and baklava found in foothill neighborhoods above Glendale.

California and Colorado fish and game officials both say state rules prevent the bear from moving to Colorado, but the large animal sanctuary where Meatball was destined disagrees.

Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, said officials are misinterpreting the law, which was meant to prevent wild animals that came from rehabilitation facilities from going to sanctuaries. But that intent, he added, has since been forgotten.

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Craig, who rescued two wild bear cubs whose mother had been shot after rummaging through cabins in Northern California about three weeks ago, said he’s long sheltered wild animals from California at his facility.

But Hamilton, who called the bear’s situation “tragic,” said it’s a violation of the sanctuary’s license to do that.

When officials put a plan in place to trap the bear and send him to Colorado, they did not know of the regulation, said California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan.

“We’ve got enough of our own laws to remember,” he said.

But Craig said he intends to keep trying to bring Meatball to Colorado, even if he has to file a lawsuit.

“It’s dire that everybody calm down and let us get this fixed,” Craig said.

The bear was taken to a rescue facility in Alpine in San Diego County called Lions, Tigers and Bears after being caught. He was supposed to spend about a week in a 15-by-20-foot caged quarantine facility, but he will remain there until California officials decide what to do with him.

The process could take weeks, Hughan added.

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