A 500-pound black bear nicknamed “Hank the Tank” has been breaking into homes around Lake Tahoe, Calif., stealing food and causing damage. He was last spotted walking down a street in the Tahoe Keys.
The bear, as of now, has caused damage to over 30 Lake Tahoe properties and prompted over 150 calls to the South Tahoe police department. He has also broken and entered at least 28 homes over the course of his rampage.
The most recent incident occurred on Friday, Feb. 18, when Hank smashed a window of a house on Catalina Drive. He squeezed through the window as the family was still in the home. When police arrived, they banged on the door and the outside of the house, and Hank escaped out the back door.
The motive for the break-ins, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife says, is that the bear is “severely food-habituated,” meaning that he has lost his fear of people and associates them with providing food.
Despite Hank’s immense presence and ruthlessness, he has not caused any harm to humans or pets in the area. But, because of the extensive damage to homes, wildlife officials are considering relocating the bear.
Options for relocation include a zoo, a wildlife preservation, another facility or, an alternative, euthanization. Relocation to the wilderness would not be healthy. Since the bear is food-habituated, “they [would] starve because they’re not used to hunting for food,” Peter Tira, a spokesman for the CDFW said.
Ann Bryant, executive director of BEAR League, a group that promotes humans living in harmony with bears, stresses that there are options better than euthanasia. Tira affirms that euthanasia is always the last resort. This is especially the case since Lake Tahoe’s bear population is at a healthy density.
With this in mind, authorities are still trying to capture the bear, who has been avoiding being caught for over seven months. The “conflict bear,” the CDFW calls him, has not yet been matched with a placement option that meets the organization’s Black Bear Policy.
As of Feb. 22, Hank has still not been captured by wildlife officials. The CDFW suggests that homeowners be smart about the disposal of their food waste, since bears like Hank are driven by the scent of food.
An Instagram post by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department urges people to apply for bear boxes, structures that can be installed on a property to safely store food and hopefully prevent further break-ins.
Sources: BEAR League, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, CNN, NBC Bay Area