SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Infamous "Hank the Tank" bear break-in artist has been captured, and wildlife biologists are relocating her to a Colorado wildlife sanctuary. Hank's crime spree included 21 home invasions and property damage since 2022, verified by DNA, and is suspected in many more.
The public nicknamed this large black bear and several others that look like her, "Hank the Tank" in 2022 when the black bears made social and mainstream media. California and Nevada wildlife officials determined that she needed to be removed recently, lethal or relocated.
"Relocation is not typically an option for conflict animals over concern that relocating an animal will relocate the conflict behavior to a different community," said the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in a statement. "However, given the widespread interest in this bear, and the significant risk of a serious incident involving the bear, CDFW is employing an alternative solution to safeguard the bear family as well as the people in the South Lake Tahoe community."
Management options for the troublesome bear had been exhausted, CDFW officials wrote. The only other option was removing the female with lethal force.
Hank's cubs staying local
Hank's three male cubs, born this year, were also captured. The trio accompanied Mom on several home invasions. Biologists discovered the family living under a Lake Tahoe home in March. All bears were tagged. Hank got a satellite tracker, which she ditched in May. The cubs have microchips, similar to those implanted in dogs, for tracking purposes.
The boys will not join Mom in Colorado. A California wildlife rescue will attempt to rehabilitate the trio and re-release them.
"The sow's three young cubs, which have accompanied the bear on recent home break-ins, will potentially be relocated to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a CDFW-permitted wildlife rehabilitation facility in Petaluma, in hopes they can discontinue the negative behaviors they learned from the sow and can be returned to the wild," wrote the CDFW.
Bear encounters are common in the Lake Tahoe area. State agencies have partnered to educate residents on how to prevent the bears from breaking into homes, cars, stores and garbage cans for food. The bears become even more active in the fall as they try to bulk up for hibernating, according to the BEAR League, a non-profit 24-hour/7-day-a-week hotline in Tahoe for bear activity reporting.