When he started boldly roaming the hilly neighborhoods of Glendale, La Crescenta and Montrose, homeowners were initially charmed but then increasingly alarmed.
When wildlife officials hit him with tranquilizer darts and relocated him deeper into the woods, he thwarted their efforts by finding his way back to suburbia.
And now that he is a guest of an animal sanctuary in this mountainous hamlet 40 miles east of San Diego, he once again is shaping his environment — this time in a way that has engendered approval, not alarm.
Bobbi Brink, founder of the Lions Tigers & Bears sanctuary, explained the Meatball phenomenon in a letter to supporters. "I never dreamed we would take in a 'celebrity,'" she wrote, only half in jest.