Meatball the bear in his temporary enclosure at the sanctuary in San Diego County.

Meatball the bear in his temporary enclosure at the sanctuary in San Diego County. (Lions, Tigers & Bear animal sanctuary / November 8, 2012)

The San Diego County wildlife sanctuary that had planned to auction off a lock of hair from Glendale's most famous bear — “Meatball” — to help build a new habitat said Thursday that it will drop the item after learning the sale would be illegal.

Lions Tigers and Bears had planned to auction off the lock of hair, along with a blue paint paw print and the orange ear tag he received by game wardens, on EBay to raise funds for the bear’s new enclosure, but it was pulled from the online site Wednesday evening after state fish and game officials said it was illegal to sell bear parts in California.

In a statement released Thursday, the sanctuary’s founder and director, Bobbi Brink, called it an “open and closed investigation.”

“We were unaware that it was a violation of the law to sell a lock of hair from a bear online,” she said. “This was an open and closed investigation, and Lions Tigers and Bears has Fish and Game's blessing to put Meatball's ear tag and paw print up for sale on EBay.”

The sanctuary needs to raise $145,000 more to hit their fundraising target of $250,000 to build Meatball a new permanent habitat.

The now-500 pound bear was taken to the wildlife sanctuary in August after twice being relocated deep inside Angeles National Forest.

Andrew Hughan, spokesman for the state Department of Fish and Game, said after the posting had been removed Wednesday that selling the ear tag and paw prints was likely legal.

A spokeswoman for the Lions Tigers and Bears said in an email Thursday that the EBay auction would be reposted — sans what had been described as a “huggable lock of his furry fur.”

The planned four-acre habitat includes a water fountain, trees and open space. The facility has a similar one occupied by four other bears, but Meatball can't stay there because licensing requirements call for one acre per ursine.

In addition to a Glendale-based fundraising effort featuring everything from pins and T-shirts to tote bags, the sanctuary plans to add to the available merchandise by rolling out a Meatball Christmas tree ornament in time for the holidays on its website for $5.

“We thank everyone for your continued support for fundraising of the new habitat for Meatball,” Brink said.

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--Jason Wells and Brittany Levine, Times Community News

Follow Jason Wells on Facebook, Google+ and on Twitter: @JasonBretWells.