500-Pound ‘Hank The Tank’ Was The Suspect In Dozens Of Break-Ins, But His Name Has Been Cleared!
There are an estimated 30,000 and 40,000 black bears living in California. The typical adult male weighs between 150-350 pounds, but Hank the Tank is not your typical black bear.
This 500-pound animal has drawn the attention of Californians and people around the world as the lead suspect in dozens of home break-ins in South Lake Tahoe Keys, the New York Times reports.
The South Lake Tahoe Police Department received more than 150 complaints about Hank the Tank. According to the Sacramento Bee, locked doors and windows were no obstacle for the massive bear, who seemingly lumbered right in to any home he came across.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife declared a “severely food-habituated bear,” posing a potential danger to humans, the LA Times reports. Under California’s 2022 black bear policy, this designation allows state officials to either euthanize the animal or move it to a new forested area or a licensed animal sanctuary.
Moving animals is sometimes no better than euthanization, however.
“You relocate a bear like this, you relocate a problem to another community,” CDFW spokesperson Peter Tira told SFGATE. “You relocate it to the wilderness, and they starve because they’re not used to hunting for food. They die a slow, agonizing death.”
The CDFW initially drew up a plan to capture and kill Hank. Following this action, many called on the state’s Governor Gavin Newsom to help save the animal, KTLA reports.
Hank has never hurt a human. His forays into residential areas seem to have started with unsecured trash cans, before he learned there was more to be found inside houses. On multiple occasions, he has been on the receiving end of loud noises, shocks and spray repellants used to scare him away.
Black bears typically want to avoid conflict with humans.
It’s possible that abnormally warm winter weather may have disrupted the bears’ internal clocks, Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care Executive Director Denise Upton told the Record Courier. The only thing on their minds now is food.
“Everything is about food for bears,” Upton said.
Hank’s need for feed could have led to his death at the hands of CDFW officials, but forensic evidence has since cleared this bear’s name.
Hank had an alibi for many of those break-ins, as DNA samples collected from the homes implicated at least two other large black bears, the Sacramento Bee reports.
Now absolved of any larceny, Hank will not be killed or relocated. State officials will instead employ a “trap, tag, haze” effort in Tahoe Keys to keep bears out of the neighborhood.
“During this effort, CDFW will gather information and learn from scientific analysis to help inform and refine our bear management in the Lake Tahoe Basin,” the wildlife agency said in a written statement. “CDFW is not going to euthanize any bears that are trapped during this effort.”
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