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Meatball the bear will stay a Californian, official says

September 26, 2012 |  3:35 pm

PHOTOS: The Glendale bear captured for good?

It appears Meatball — the 400-pound bear from Glendale that was taken to a sanctuary after several return trips from the forest — will remain a Californian.

Since being lured into a trap with a McDonald’s meal and bacon, Meatball has been staying in a 15-foot by 20-foot cage at the Lions, Tigers, and Bears animal sanctuary in Alpine in east San Diego County. It was meant to be a holding spot until the bear could be transferred to a much larger sanctuary in Colorado, but state officials there blocked the plan.

Since then, Lions, Tigers and Bears has embarked on a fundraising campaign to build Meatball his own habitat, which is expected to include a waterfall, hammocks, trees and caves. The sanctuary still has a long way to go — it has raised $22,000 of the $250,000 needed — but the effort has been enough for the California Department of Fish and Game.

PHOTOS: The Glendale bear captured for good?

"We’re hoping that he lives a long, happy life in Alpine," said the agency’s spokesman, Andrew Hughan, who was reached by phone Tuesday as he visited Meatball for the first time.

The bear captured the hearts of many after he made multiple visits to foothill neighborhoods, snacking on trash and raiding a freezer of his namesake — frozen meatballs. California officials twice relocated the bear deep in the Angeles National Forest, but he continued to return.

Officials don’t typically relocate wild bears, but they decided against euthanizing Meatball given his popularity.

"The department and me personally feel that if he can’t be in the wild, this is the best place for him to live the rest of his life," Hughan said.

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-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Photo: The Glendale bear known as Meatball will remain in his temporary enclosure until a permanent habitat is constructed at the facility in Alpine. Credit: Lions, Tigers & Bear animal sanctuary

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