Lions Tigers & Bears group in Alpine to hold fundraiser for 'Meatball'

Group working on 4-acre habitat for bear

ALPINE, Calif. - The nonprofit group caring for a California black bear captured in the San Gabriel Mountain foothills after repeatedly raiding garbage cans and garages for food will hold a holiday fundraiser on Saturday.

Lions Tigers & Bears in Alpine, which is working on building a 4-acre habitat for the bear, has even made ornaments with photographs of "Meatball" attached. Captured in August by state Fish and Game wildlife wranglers in Los Angeles County, the roughly 400-pound bear was given the nickname after getting into freezer in a La Crescenta garage and tearing into some Costco meatballs.

Meatball had already been tranquilized and taken back into the Angeles National Forest twice when he struck out in August. Once bears start associating humans with food, they become a wildlife management problem.

After his capture, the bear was taken to the Alpine wildlife sanctuary, but wildlife officials planned to send him to a wildlife refuge in Colorado. But Colorado authorities determined it would be illegal for Meatball to be moved to a sanctuary because, under state law, no animal taken from the wild can be kept in a "sanctuary."

In an earlier auction fundraiser held via eBay, the sanctuary was stopped from offering some locks of Meatball's fur because it was deemed a bear product, which is illegal to sell in California.

Lions Tigers & Bears has been working to give Meatball a bigger enclosure with more roaming space. Donations can be made through the sanctuary's website, lionstigersandbears.org.

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