There’s a legal and emotional war raging around the future of the cute black bear named “Meatball.” In the latest turn of events, a Colorado wildlife sanctuary, which is prevented by wildlife officials from having custody of the bear, has filed a lawsuit in Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District Court to block the state from enforcing its quixotic rule of prohibiting sanctuaries from housing wildlife.
Apparently, the confusion in the Colorado law that’s preventing the bear from rehabilitation is a drafting error. While under the Colorado law, “sanctuary” is defined as a place of refuge that “provides care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned, or displaced wildlife for their lifetime” a regulation in the law governing parks and wildlife also contains the phrase that no animal “taken from the wild shall be possessed by any sanctuary.” And Colorado officials seem to be making a confusion in the plain reading of that rider which should read, not “taken from” but “captured from.”
In the present case, Meatball, fits the definition of “unwanted, impounded, … orphaned, or displaced wildlife” perfectly. The cute bear is regularly zapped with tranquilizers by Glendale, California, authorities and considered a menace because it raids trashcans and refrigerators searching for meatballs and other food.
Time and again, “Meatball” has been relocated 100s of miles away in forests, but he always returns to Glendale. The reason is clear as Andrew Hughan, spokesman for California’s state Fish and Game Department says, “This is actually pretty typical bear behavior … They can move several hundred miles if they have to back to their original locations.”
And some residents suspect that “Meatball” originally lived in the 163,000 acres of wildlife habitat neighboring Glendale that was burned down in 2009 by an accidental “Station Fire.” Meatball has never been aggressive, and must be surprised by the sudden disappearance of his home, and why these humans shoot him with tranquilizers every time they see him foraging for food.
The California Department of Fish and Game captured meatball for the third time on August 29. His current caretakers at a San Diego County sanctuary are building a cage for him to stay in. While the 720-acre Colorado Wildlife Sanctuary wants to house Meatball, laws are coming in way, and for now, it seems puzzled Meatball will have to accept cramped quarters.
Right now, the San Diego sanctuary people are fundraising for Meatball to have a home. Bobby Brink, director of the Lions, Tigers & Bears sanctuary says “we don’t want to take our emergency money out for this … What we raise is what we’re going to build” for Meatball. She says she wished she knew that law was going to prohibit Meatball having a place in the Colorado sanctuary, which is much bigger.
Meanwhile the Colorado sanctuary is fighting at the court to get Meatball properly rehabilitated. John Singletary, the chairman of the 11-member Colorado Wildlife and Parks Commission which has power to clarify or change the rule says he’s already received more than 180 emails from people in support of Meatball.