Tranquilized, the black bear that visited Montrose on Sunday lies in the bed of a truck before being returned to the Angeles National Forest.

Tranquilized, the black bear that visited Montrose on Sunday lies in the bed of a truck before being returned to the Angeles National Forest. (Los Angeles Times, Frank Shyong / September 10, 2012)

State fish and game officials on Monday said the 200-pound black bear that caused a ruckus in La Crescenta Sunday after forcing authorities to temporarily shut down the Foothill (210) Freeway is nowhere near a “Meatball situation” — and they want to keep it that way.

“Meatball,” of course, is the much larger 400-pound ursine that captured the hearts of the public after returning several times to the foothills above Glendale — driven by a taste for trash and thrown-out food. He’s awaiting a final spot at a yet-to-be-decided wildlife sanctuary.

The bear on Sunday — a young female with brown fur and a “blonde” face — has no such history, authorities said. She was tranquilized a few blocks south of the freeway. She was released around 3:30 p.m. with an ear tag marked by the number 520, and she was taken deeper into the Angeles National Forest than Meatball was the first time around.

“Hopefully she won’t come back,” said California Fish and Game Capt. Mike Stefanak.

Meatball was taken into the forest twice after snacking on food and swimming in pools in foothill neighborhoods. The first time he was driven 13 miles in, but a few months later he was driven the maximum 20 miles.

Still, he returned.

“His sightings were fairly regular from almost day one,” Stefanak said, contrasting Meatball to the female bear.

The male bear, tagged with the number 210, made it a habit to search for human food, while the female bear most likely got lost, Stefanak added.

“This isn’t anywhere near a Meatball situation,” he said.

In August, a young male bear was struck by a car near the freeway in La Cañada Flintridge. He was later euthanized after officials determined he was too injured to survive in the wild.

As roaming animals, it’s impossible to predict if the female bear will return, but Stefanak said officials hope the negative experience she had on Sunday prevents her from coming back.

If the female bear returns — and doesn’t cause public safety issues — she will likely be returned to the forest yet again. Fish and game officials will put a bear down only if it damages property or poses a danger to people.

“Our goal is to keep her wild,” Stefanak said.

-- Brittany Levine, Times Community News

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