Calif. bear 'Meatball' will move to San Diego shelter, not Colorado's Wild Animal Sanctuary

KEENESBURG, Colo. - A bear that roamed the foothills above Los Angeles, swimming in pools and swiping meatballs out of garage freezers has found a home at an east San Diego County sanctuary.

   The Los Angeles Times reports that California Department of Fish and Game officials have decided the Lions, Tigers, and Bears sanctuary in Alpine where he's being held can become the permanent home of the California black bear known as Meatball for his food-filching hijinks.

   The bear currently lives in a 15-foot by 20-foot cage, but the sanctuary is raising funds to build the 400-pound 5-year-old a new habitat with a waterfall, hammocks, trees and caves.

The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colo. had agreed to take in Meatball, but a spokeswoman for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife said the sanctuary cannot bring the bear to the state because of a regulation which says "no wildlife taken from the wild shall be possessed by any wildlife sanctuary."

"This rule that they came up with is totally contrary to what the law says about us taking in orphaned and displaced wildlife," Pat Craig, director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, said. "We've been taking in orphaned and displaced bears from California and other places for more than two or three decades now and it's never been a problem."

Craig said the rules are confusing and need to change. But a spokesperson for the Division of Wildlife Jennifer Churchill said she thought they were clear.

"We don't think there's any miscommunication about that state law regulating the fact sanctuaries can't take animals from the wild," Churchill said.

Craig said the sanctuary recently moved two cubs from Sacramento to the sanctuary because their mother was killed, and Parks and Wildlife knew about it. He said this is the first time this rule has been brought to his attention. 


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