ALPINE, Calif. -
The on-again, off-again auction of Meatball-related memorabilia to raise funds to build the celebrity bear his own digs at an Alpine wildlife sanctuary is on once again Friday -- but without a lock of his fur.
The eBay auction was set up to raise funds for Lions, Tigers and Bears, which is building a habitat for Meatball, but it was removed Wednesday hours after bidding began because the sale of a lock of Meatball's fur might have broken the law.
The inclusion of the lock of fur in the auction may be in violation of state law, California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan told the Los Angeles Times.
"The sale of bear parts is illegal in California and DFG is investigating," he told the newspaper.
"We're just always trying to find creative ways to make a little money to involve the community," said Bobbi Brink of Lion Tigers and Bears. "They're a restricted species, and it's illegal to sell any body part of a bear … we should have known better."
Lions, Tiger and Bears collected Meatball's fur from the ground, since Brink said he sheds every day. The sanctuary also has fur from when Meatball was shaved during a medical checkup. The sanctuary said it keeps the fur to show kids when they visit.
"They can't touch and pet these animals, but at least they can touch and feel the hair," said Brink.
He earned the nickname Meatball when he was spotted raiding a garage freezer for Costco meatballs. On another occasion, he was spotted taking a dip in a pool in La Canada-Flintridge.
His freewheeling ended with his capture in August, when he was taken to the Alpine wildlife sanctuary.
While sedated, Meatball had his "210" Fish and Game ear tag removed, was "paw printed" and had a few locks of his fur clipped for display in the sanctuary's education center.
The bear has since been neutered and had an identifying microchip placed under his skin, according to Lions, Tigers and Bears, which acquired another wayward bear, dubbed Sugar Bear, from a closed sanctuary in Ohio last month.
Meatball has been given a clean bill of health, after being tested for parasites and undergoing a dental exam.
According to Lions, Tigers and Bears, the habitat's 12-by-18-foot "safety bedroom" is nearly complete and Meatball will be moved there as soon as possible.
Bears that repeatedly return to populated areas are sometimes euthanized, but Meatball was spared. Initially, he was to be held at the Alpine sanctuary temporarily, then moved to a 720-acre sanctuary in Kennesburg, Colo.
But Colorado wildlife officials blocked those plans, citing a Colorado statute that says "no wildlife taken from the wild shall be possessed by any wildlife sanctuary."
Fish and Game officials said it won't cite Lions, Tigers and Bears since it believes it was an innocent mistake.
"It was just good intention gone bad," said Brink. "We're all animal lovers here. Nobody meant anything. We're just trying to have fun."
The setback leaves the sanctuary thousands of dollars short of the amount needed to build the habitat.
"The entire project will cost about $250,000," said Brink. "We've raised over $105,000."
10News wasn't allowed to see Meatball while visiting the sanctuary. Brink said he was recently neutered and is still in quarantine.