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Glendale bear: Tensions rise as 2 sanctuaries vie for donations

September 12, 2012 |  7:38 pm

A feud is brewing across state lines as animal sanctuaries in California and Colorado have launched dueling fundraising efforts that they hope will help them secure the popular Glendale bear for the rest of his life.

Officials at the Lions Tigers & Bears animal sanctuary in Alpine Calif., announced Wednesday morning that they would begin a formal fundraising effort to raise the thousands of dollars necessary to build a habitat for the bear Angelenos have come to know as Meatball.

The campaign came only a day after authorities from the California Department of Fish and Game announced that they “do not intend to allow the bear” to be transported to Colorado out of respect for a Colorado state regulation that bars wild animals from entering sanctuaries.

To battle the regulation, the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado launched its own campaign on homelessbear.org. The website, which features a picture of a crying bear behind bars, provides a form letter supporters can use to write to wildlife officials and also includes a donation tab for those “interested in furthering our efforts to save wildlife.”

The website left a bad taste in the mouth of Bobbi Brink, owner and director of the sanctuary east of San Diego, where Meatball remains inside a quarantine cage.

“I’m really disappointed in this ‘homeless bear’ thing because he’s not really homeless,” Brink said. “He has a home here.”

The 400-pound black bear that made repeated visits to the Glendale and La Crescenta area over a span of more than five months was tranquilized for the third and final time Aug. 29. That day, game wardens trucked him to the Alpine shelter as a temporary home until he could be moved to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre haven northeast of Denver. Officials only later learned about the Colorado wildlife regulation that prohibits his transfer.

Pat Craig, executive director of the Wild Animal Sanctuary, filed legal action Wednesday asking a judge in Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District Court to block the state from enforcing the regulation. He claims that the definition for “sanctuary” inside the revised state statutes directly conflicts.

Craig is also is adamant that if the regulation is lifted, the bear would be better off with more space and more "friends" in his 720-acre facility. Brink’s site measures just under 100 acres in total, and the new bear habitat will probably be smaller than the four-acre space there already designated for bears.

“I’m frustrated from the standpoint that, as a mentor to Bobbi, we’ve always tried to be the helpful side,” Craig said. “And yet they’re pretty upset with us right now.”


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-- Matt Stevens, Kate Mather and Brittany Levine