The Glendale bear, known as Meatball as well as Glen Bearian, was trapped… (California Fish and Game )
If only the Glendale bear could hire a lawyer.
The 400-pound black bear, affectionately known as Meatball as well as Glen Bearian, remained in a quarantine cage at a California sanctuary Wednesday night as officials grappled with a Colorado regulation that puts on hold any transfer to the Rocky Mountain state.
The meatball-loving bear, whose popularity exploded after multiple friendly visits to neighborhoods in the foothills north of downtown Los Angeles, gave in to temptation last week, lured by French fries and bacon straight into a culvert trap. He then was taken to a temporary home — Lions Tigers & Bears in Alpine, at the edge of the Cleveland National Forest east of San Diego.
At the time, California officials said the bear would be transferred to a Colorado sanctuary within days. But his home continues to be a 15-foot-by-20-foot cage amid debate over a Colorado statute that would allow his transfer versus a wildlife regulation that would not.
"The decision does not need to be made today, tomorrow or even next week," said Andrew Hughan of the California Department of Fish and Game. "We are going to err on the side of caution. He's safe and secure and that's the highest priority."
The situation only frustrated Sarah Aujero, who began tweeting as TheGlendaleBear in March and has raised at least $3,000 through the sale of Glen Bearian T-shirts and other donations to support his potential transfer. On Wednesday, she vented.
"Get my hopes up with promises of a home where I can have hundreds of acres to roam free, aka 'ClubMed for Bears.' ... #FreeMeatball," Aujero wrote under her Twitter persona Glen Bearian.
California wildlife officials had something of a happy ending planned for the bear when they tranquilized him on Aug. 29. Rather than move him back to the Angeles National Forest a third time, they drove him south to Alpine. At present, the sanctuary there is too small to provide a permanent home, prompting officials to float the idea of moving the bear to the Wild Animal Sanctuary, a 720-acre habitat northeast of Denver that its director calls a "Club Med for bears."
But Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials say such a move is prohibited, citing a regulation that states: "No wildlife taken from the wild shall be possessed by any wildlife sanctuary." Because Glen Bearian came from the wild, he cannot be transported and taken in by the Wild Animal Sanctuary, Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokesman Randy Hampton said.
However, Pat Craig, executive director of the Colorado sanctuary, disputed that Wednesday, citing a section of Colorado Revised Statutes that defines "wildlife sanctuary" as "a place of refuge where a nonprofit entity … provides care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced wildlife for their lifetime."
Craig argued that this is "exactly opposed" to the Parks and Wildlife regulation and would allow Glen Bearian's transfer. In fact, he said, the sanctuary has been taking in rescued bears from California for years, including two cubs in the last month. He also said that the regulation is being misinterpreted and that its main goal is to prevent wild animals in Colorado rehab facilities from overpopulating such sanctuaries.
"I guarantee you on my life that this rule will be changed," he said, adding that his attorneys are working with the Colorado attorney general's office.
Carolyn A. Tyler, a spokeswoman for that office, said Wednesday that she was not aware of "any direct communications with Mr. Pat Craig or the Wild Animal Sanctuary about Meatball" and referred questions to Parks and Wildlife.
Hampton, the Parks and Wildlife spokesman, said: "We'll certainly have to have a conversation with Mr. Craig about what kinds of animals he's accepting."
Aujero said this latest twist in the bear saga could be dubbed "Meatball vs. State of Colorado."
"All this is nonsense," she said of the ongoing debate over the law. "I don't want him to be in San Diego because they don't have room. I don't want him stuck in a cage for months while they build something."
One of the bear's biggest donors, however, remains unperturbed.
Ali Van Zee, 64, of Oakland donated more than $2,000 to the Wild Animal Sanctuary to help defray costs of the move. On Wednesday, she said she would leave the donation with the sanctuary and would make a separate one to Lions Tigers & Bears if Meatball remains there.
"It could not be a better situation," she said. "Two of the best sanctuaries want to take the bear.... But it would sure be great to see this bear stay down in Southern California. He's a California bear. Let's keep him here."