Hank the Tank Strikes Again

Supporters hope to remove black bear from Lake Tahoe area, where he's wreaking havoc
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 17, 2022 10:50 AM CST
Updated Feb 22, 2022 6:14 AM CST

Update: Hank the Tank is at it again. The 500-pound black bear who's been busting into homes around Lake Tahoe made his way into yet another home Friday, according to South Lake Tahoe police. "He broke into a secured home, through the small window in the photo, and somehow squeezed inside," police said, per NPR, sharing a photo of a low-lying window that was completely smashed. They noted officers "banged on the exterior of the home until he popped out a back door." State wildlife officials had set traps for Hank, with plans to kill the bear who's lost his fear of humans and relies on human food, though they were removed after public outcry, KABC reports. Wildlife rescue group BEAR League says it's told officials of several sanctuaries willing to accept the bear. Our original story from Thursday follows:

California officials are planning to trap and kill a well-known local to the Lake Tahoe area: a 500-pound black bear with a fondness for human food. According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, the bear has damaged 38 homes in the Tahoe Keys community of South Lake Tahoe in recent months, while prompting more than 150 calls to the department. A local bear advocate tells South Tahoe Now that this particular bear will break down doors of homes with people inside. Officials say it's not feasible to move the bear to another location as it doesn't know how to hunt. The Bear Education Aversion Response (BEAR) League agrees, though it doesn't think the bear needs to die.

If this "well-known local" can't stay in the only area he knows, he should be moved to a sanctuary, where he can live out his life in peace, Executive Director Ann Bryant tells KOVR. "We don't want anybody to get hurt," but "we don't want the bear to die either," she says. Bryant adds that vandalism to traps set by the state—the words "Bear Killer" were spray-painted on one—shows community members "do not want the bear to pay the price for human ignorance." Bryant tells KCRA that a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado is willing to take the bear, with all expenses to be paid by the BEAR League. But there are hurdles, according to the department, which says it's already tried hazing and other mitigation efforts.

"A black bear cannot be imported into the state of Colorado without permits and approval from Colorado Parks and Wildlife," a rep tells KCRA, which reports other animals transferred to the facility from California needed documents proving they were born in captivity. Jason Holley, a supervising wildlife biologist with the California department, suggested last week there'd be no budging. "It is the point of no return for this bear, but the public needs to fix the things that brought us to this point, or it will continue," he said, per South Tahoe Now. State officials have already urged locals to bear-proof their homes and lock up their garbage. (Read more black bear stories.)

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