'Meatball' the bear's memorabilia auctioned on EBay
Glendale’s now-famous “Meatball” bear has conquered Twitter; now it’s on to EBay.
Fans of the famous food-loving bruin can bid on special bear memorabilia starting Wednesday – just in time for the holiday season.
Officials at Lions Tigers & Bears animal sanctuary are auctioning off the bear’s orange California Department of Fish and Game ear tag, a paw print and a few locks of fur as part of a larger fundraising effort to build a habitat for the bear.
“The goal is for the highest bidder to have a piece of keeping Meatball,” said Jen Jenkins, spokeswoman for Lions Tigers & Bears. “We’re stuck at $105,000. We’re hoping this will jumpstart things again. We know how many people have expressed interest in Meatball.”
The bear known to many as "the Glendale Bear" or "Meatball" gained acclaim when he began roaming neighborhoods near Angeles National Forest last spring. He earned his nickname after he was caught rummaging through a resident’s garage freezer chowing down on a bag of Costco meatballs. Later, he was spotted picking oranges out of trees and eating tuna fish.
His fame escalated when Glendale resident Sarah Aujero created a Twitter handle, which caught fire thanks to her witty, often comical remarks. As of Wednesday, the handle @TheGlendaleBear had more than 35,000 followers.
Due in part to his popularity, Fish and Game officials chose to transport him to the Alpine Lions Tigers and Bears sanctuary in August after having tranquilized him on three separate occasions. In both of the first two occasions, the bear was transported to the forest, only to return weeks later.
After the first episode, a game warden tagged Meatball with an orange clip numbered 210 –- coincidentally, the same number as the freeway that officials suspect he crossed to get to Glendale. Residents and wardens alike later used the tag to identify the bear when he made return visits.
“The state of California is happy to donate the 210 tag to raise money for the health and welfare of the bear,” said California Department of Fish and Game spokesman Andrew Hughan, adding that he would probably bid on the items himself.
Aujero, meanwhile, has been selling T-shirts, buttons and other bear merchandise since August to help raise money to build the bear’s habitat. The cost is estimated at $250,000 and a statement from the sanctuary said Lions Tigers & Bears has collected $105,000 thus far.
Jenkins said the bear’s “safety bedroom” could be completed in the coming weeks while the landscape designer and architect finish the renderings of the habitat. The bear will move from his 15- by 20-foot quarantine cage to the bedroom when it is complete.
Meatball has undergone a physical exam, blood work, parasite testing and a dental exam, Jenkins said, adding that his paw prints were taken while he was sedated. The sanctuary vet determined that the bear is 5 to 6 years old and weighs 502 pounds – about 100 pounds more, Hughan said, than when a game warden first weighed him.
— Matt Stevens
Photo: Meatball the bear cools off at the Lions, Tigers & Bears animal sanctuary in San Diego County in August. Credit: Lions, Tigers & Bears