'Meatball' won't be moved to Colorado

Black bear currently living in Alpine sanctuary

ALPINE, Calif. -  

The state Department of Fish and Game confirmed Tuesday that "Meatball," a 400-pound black bear captured in Los Angeles County and being cared for in the San Diego County foothills community of Alpine, will not be moved to Colorado.

Given the name because he likes to eat meatballs, the 5-year-old bear was found in the swimming pool of a La Canada Flintridge home on Aug. 29, the third time in recent months that he had ambled out of the Angeles National Forest to forage in suburbia.

The DFG trapped Meatball by using bait made up of bacon and honey and sent him to Lions Tigers and Bears in Alpine, with plans to transfer him later to a 720-acre sanctuary in Keenesburg, Colo.

Those plans were put on hold while officials investigated a statute in the Rocky Mountain state that says "no wildlife taken from the wild shall be possessed by any wildlife sanctuary."

A DFG statement issued Tuesday said, "It 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 to be transported there."

The statement said it appeared that Meatball was being cared for well in Alpine.

"As the state agency responsible for managing California's wildlife, the department is actively searching for a permanent home for this bear. This may take some time," the statement said.

Bobbi Brink, director of Lions Tigers and Bears, said they need help to build Meatball a den and an outdoor area to roam. LTB recently took in another bear, putting the 93-acre site at capacity, she said.

San Diego Gas & Electric has already offered to donate 26-foot wooden poles needed for the project, and other organizations and individuals have also offered to help with construction.

Brink said the bear also needs to adjust to a life in captivity.

"As a wild animal, he doesn't understand how to live in an enclosure or that it's OK to eat food provided by people," Brink said. "All of his instincts are telling him to run for the hills and that he can't trust the people around him."

He also needs complete veterinary and dental checkups, a microchip and will have to be neutered, she said.

The sanctuary asked anyone wishing to donate to the cause to contact Lions, Tigers and Bears at (619) 659-8078.

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