San Diego sanctuary launches campaign to build habitat for bear named Meatball

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

A San Diego-area exotic animal sanctuary has launched a fundraising campaign to build a permanent home for Meatball, a "trash-loving" black bear at the center of a wildlife legal battle stretching from Colorado to California.

The 500-pound bear was captured by officials from the California Department of Fish and Game on Aug. 28, in Glendale, Calif.

Lions, Tigers & Bears, the Alpine, Calif., sanctuary, was at full capacity, so California wildlife officials proposed to relocate the 5-year-old bear to Colorado. But earlier this week, Colorado wildlife officials rejected the proposal, saying a state law prohibits sanctuaries from taking in wild animals.

"Out of respect for Colorado law," the California Department of Fish and Game said in a statement on Tuesday, "we do not intend to allow the bear to be transported there."

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On Tuesday, the Colorado Wildlife Sanctuary, which still hopes to attain Meatball, announced it had filed a lawsuit against the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department and the Department of Natural Resources, according to

The same day, the sanctuary—which is keeping Meatball in a 15-by-20-foot quarantine cage—launched its fundraising campaign to build a habitat that it said could cost as much as $250,000 to complete:

Meatball will need a safety bedroom, as well as an enclosed outdoor area to roam and play that will be full of rolling hills, caves, hammocks, boulders and natural grasses. Because he loves water (before being captured, he was filmed pool-hopping), the sanctuary would love to build him a pool.

Meanwhile, California residents are rallying around Meatball.

The Los Angeles Times reported that Ali Van Zee, a Bay Area hospice nurse who donated $2,500 to transport Meatball to Colorado, "spent a chunk of that money on 350 pounds of nuts and berries at Sprouts Farmers Market in El Cajon as part of a two-day trip to see the bear in his temporary home."

It was the biggest single purchase of nuts the store has ever received, the store's manager said.

[Watch: Family of black bears invades local news set]

Meatball is already a major celebrity in the wildlife world. His story was featured on the "Rachel Maddow" show, which is where Van Zee first heard of him. And, naturally, Meatball already has a Twitter account: @TheGlendaleBear.