The Glendale bear affectionately called “Meatball” by fans has a new children’s book and a new name.
The San Diego sanctuary that took in the roughly 500-pound black bear — who got his name after eating frozen meatballs from a garage refrigerator in a Glendale home in 2012 — is currently selling books called “The Story of Meatball 210.”
The owner of the sanctuary, called Lions, Tigers & Bears, said the book title has nothing to do with a flap that took place late last year over rights to the name Meatball.
The sanctuary and the woman who created the bruin’s name and a popular Twitter account that shot the bear to stardom tussled over rights to the animal’s name and ownership of the Twitter account, @TheGlendaleBear.
The two sides mostly have been at a standstill since that time. However, in December, about a month after the name hullabaloo was reported in the press, the sanctuary filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for the name “Meatball 210,” blending the nickname the woman, Sarah Aujero, gave the bear and the number on a tag that California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials fastened to the animal’s ear after capturing and releasing him. Aujero claims legal rights to the ‘Meatball’ name.
Sanctuary staff began mailing the books to online buyers in recent weeks, said Bobbi Brink, owner of Lions, Tigers & Bears, where Meatball loves to play tetherball and eat salmon.
Brink said the decision to rename the bear Meatball 210 was prompted by a desire to distinguish which animals in the sanctuary were originally in the wild.
“It helps the kids to know which animals came out of the wild and why. What we need to do is keep wild animals wild,” she said, adding that Conrad the mountain lion has been renamed Conrad 502 and another bear named Liberty has been renamed Liberty 101.
When Brink’s friend Jason Weeding, the author of the book, sat down to craft the story, he reviewed several news accounts of Meatball’s visits to Glendale and focused on educating children about how humans should act to keep both themselves and bears safe. The book also shows off the bear’s personality.
“He’s a pretty funny bear,” Brink said. “He likes to play. He’s really active.”
Despite being banned from the sanctuary over the name drama, Aujero, in a statement, encouraged people to support the bear, no matter what his name is.
“Whether or not people call him “Meatball” or “Meatball 210,” he's still the same bear we know and love from Glendale and we should all continue to support him and wildlife like him,” she said.
“The Story of Meatball 210” is told by a squirrel named Pinecone Wayne, who sports a bushy mustache and tail. Pinecone Wayne shares how Meatball made multiple trips to Glendale, eating food out of trash cans and taking dips in swimming pools in 2012 and 2013.
The illustrations of Meatball include an excited bear eyeing the contents of a refrigerator, a bear with a full belly surrounded by trash, a stunned bear with googly eyes being shot with a tranquilizer dart and a crying bear in a cage.
Meatball was caught three times by state wildlife officials, who spared his life due to his popularity, and sent him to Lions, Tigers & Bears last August.
Although the book’s fictionalized account is mostly accurate, a reference to Meatball once being driven 200 miles away from Glendale by fish and game officials after a capture is exaggerated. He was only driven about 30 miles into the Angeles National Forest, said Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife who had been involved in relocating the bear
Proceeds from the $20 book — which is being sold online at lionstigersandbears.org and in the sanctuary’s gift shop — will go to the facility’s general fund to help all its animals, Brink said.
The sanctuary has raised roughly $325,000, enough to build a new 6-acre habitat for Meatball and other bears, but fundraising continues for a picnic area, hammocks and other bear toys for the new habitat, Brink said. She added that a contractor is currently finalizing engineering and design plans.
Hughan said he hadn’t seen the book yet, but he plans to buy copies for himself and his family.
“Anything that brings awareness to wildlife conditions I'm happy about,” he said in an email.