A 500 pound bear named Hank the Tank has broken into 38 homes in Lake Tahoe

Not actual bear

Last year, Helen Mirren shared a video where she had to yell at a black bear to get it to leave her property in Lake Tahoe. The bear wasn’t particularly large and was tagged on one ear. It sheepishly tried to go up her patio stairs like it was used to getting fed by people. It’s scary enough to have bears sniffing around outside for garbage and bird seed, it happens all the time where I live in rural Virginia, but what about bears that are so bold they open car doors, break windows and break into homes?

There’s a huge 500 pound black bear in South Lake Tahoe called Hank the Tank who has broken into almost 40 homes. He’s broken windows, kicked down doors and keeps coming back not matter what residents and California Fish and Wildlife do. Sirens, paintballs and Tasers haven’t worked. Some residents want Hank euthanized because they’re understandably afraid for their lives and for their pets’ lives. A bear organization is defending Hank and wants him to be spared.

Hank — who earned his name from South Lake Tahoe residents — has broken into dozens of homes in the area in recent months, The New York Times reported. He has been eating human food and garbage and breaking into homes through garages, windows and doors, according to the newspaper.

Despite attempts by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to keep him away, Hank continues to return, spokesperson Peter Tira told the Times. Officials have even used paintballs, bean bags, sirens and Tasers to prevent Hank from returning to the community.

“It’s easier to find leftover pizza than to go in the forest,” Tira said, per the Times.

As of Friday, 38 homes in the Lake Tahoe area have been damaged by Hank, and he’s been reported in more than 150 calls to authorities, CBS Sacramento reported.

Local residents are now debating whether or not the bear should be euthanized.

Tim Johnson, who lives in the area favored by Hank, told CBS Sacramento that the bear’s presence has made him more vigilant about home security.

“I’ve been in town 40 years and I’ve been locking my doors recently and I’ve never done that,” he told the news station.

Tira, the Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson, said euthanizing Hank is the department’s “last option,” adding, “This is a bear that has lost all fear of people. It’s a potentially dangerous situation.

A local group called the Bear League is fighting to prevent Hank from being euthanized, according to NBC News 4. In a statement posted to Facebook Sunday, the group claimed Hank was being “targeted for death by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW).”

[From People]

The Bear League wants Hank to go to a sanctuary, which is understandable. Given how much damage he’s caused I wonder if that’s even an option. How much harder would it be to transport him somewhere and what sanctuary would want him? Years ago I visited a bear sanctuary outside of Berlin. They rehabilitate captive and abused performing brown/grizzly bears that have habituated behavior like walking in circles from being tied up all their lives. Imagine Hank in a place like that. He would be figuring out the locks on the second day and staging a walkout.

Update: a sanctuary in Colorado has said

The Wild Animal Sanctuary
In Kenesburg Colorado will take Hank the Tank 😉

They need California division of wildlife director Kevin Thomas at 916 358 2900 to call the Colorado division of wildlife director Dan Prenzlow at 303 297 1192 and get permission to come get him. pic.twitter.com/KWSFH3kSH5

— AltYellowstoneNatPar (@AltYelloNatPark) February 21, 2022

“>it will take Hank, however it’s unclear if arrangements have been made or how this would happen.

I’m not sure if this video is of Hank but damn!

David Attenborough narrates bears breaking into cars!

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34 Responses to “A 500 pound bear named Hank the Tank has broken into 38 homes in Lake Tahoe”

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  1. Dtab says:

    The is terrifying…imagine sitting there and that comes through the door. It would be scary enough as an adult but with Kids in the home, they would be traumatised for years to come.

    • hmm says:

      Honestly I think for a lot of kids it would be worse for adults. If I were a kid and this happened I would be so delighted. I think we learn fear of animals as we grow up (not saying in any way what is going on is ok though!).

  2. He should not be euthanized! He is trying to survive just like the rest of us.

    • Tracy says:

      100% agree

    • Truthiness says:

      I’ll always remember Letterman’s story about waking up in his place – Montana? – and a bear had broken in downstairs. They waited until the bear was finished and left before going downstairs. Just repaired the minimal damage, it’s just something people out there deal with. Get Hank to a sanctuary!

    • Christine says:

      Agreed! And he hasn’t been threatening people, just kicks in doors to get to food, or whatever bears do when they want inside a house. I live in CA, and our local media is all about the people who live in Lake Tahoe, and they don’t want Hank hurt, at all.

  3. Stef says:

    He should be moved to a sanctuary, if possible. It’s not his fault humans have moved into his ancestral habitat and he’s smart enough to figure out how to access human food. He was likely fed by humans first and foremost.

    Trying to imagine how difficult it would be to find, trap, and humanely transport such a huge bear!

    • LadyMTL says:

      I agree, ideally he should be moved to a sanctuary. Humans have encroached on his habitat and have obviously disrupted his normal behaviours (don’t bears hibernate this time of year?) but he should be euthanized because of it? If he’s hurt or killed people that’s one thing, but otherwise there ought to be a better solution.

      That said, I can’t imagine the logistics of it – he’s bigger than a young elephant!

  4. WhoElse says:

    Just start dumping a bunch of his fave foods really close to his natural habitat. It’s what he’s coming for, but if it starts showing up right next to his den, he’ll stop making the trip to where people live. Organize something with forest management and waste disposal, cos killing the bear is unfair, it doesn’t know what it’s doing. Taking it to a new habitat or a captive setup can affect the bear negatively, and imbalance the ecosystem you took him from (for instance, if he had cubs in the area, they would probably get killed by a nearby male that took over his habitat). So just give him what he wants, in a way that decouples that thing from human dwellings, and he’ll adapt.

  5. Smacd says:

    I’m guessing that this bear isn’t hibernating either. He’s spending all 4 seasons awake and eating everything in sight. Poor guy.

    • BeanieBean says:

      That’s what I found curious, why isn’t this bear hibernating? Has climate change screwed things up so much bears aren’t getting their cues to hibernate? Or did he wake up early for whatever reason & right now he’s just super hungry? I’m not sure why they don’t just move him to a nearby national forest; that’s what Yosemite NP used to do, move its ‘problem’ bears onto the Stanislaus National Forest. Longtime residents of Tahoe know bear safety & still this will happen, because they live in bear territory. I’m glad a sanctuary is taking this particular bear, but they need better tactics if the ‘not hibernating’ thing because more frequent in the future.

      • Deering24 says:

        Bears don’t hibernate if they have an ongoing supply of food. Hank’s dining room is a gated community which apparently gives up lots of pizza, among other stuff in the garbage he likes. 🤣🤣 And from all accounts, he just sits and eats when he breaks in—he doesn’t growl or attack.

  6. Ochar says:

    I have a animal rescue place near me that only takes in animals that have been confiscated as pets or been in zoos/circuses that are closed down, etc. And they have a black bear that was found in a raid at a drug house. Anyways, they do still give him candy occasionally and I always wondered what the point was, but now I am wondering if it is because he will be more satisfied staying in his habitat if he gets the foods he was used to.
    I hate to euthanize any wild animal for simply being a wild animal, but I also see why this would be terrifying. I Iaughed when the article said he kicked in doors, but then that video of a bear breaking a door down is scary!

  7. Fernanda says:

    This makes me incredibly sad. Animals have completely lost their habitat and now have to pay the price of humans holidaying. And this is not only the case with Lake Tahoe, but it is happening all over the world. He is eating junk food, not hibernating, not hunting etc. And it’s not his fault at all. And now has to be transferred or euthanized because people want to keep on holidaying. Just so sad and depressing.

    • Andrea says:

      @Fernanda, agree 100 percent. Stories like this break my heart. It’s like when Mountain Lions “encroach” into neighborhoods, people freak out and the mountain lion ends up dead. Human beings are the ones encroaching onto the animals’ habitats!! Where are they supposed to go? There are too many people on this planet.

    • HelloDolly! says:

      YES. I am a Californian, and my first instinct is to think that this is largely a tourism issue, which is a shame. I imagine out-of-towners vacationing in Tahoe don’t secure their trash and/or are actively feeding the wild life (UGH).

  8. Steph says:

    I have a lot of thoughts here. I obviously recognize why this isn’t a tenable situation. It can get very dangerous very quickly. However, since no one has been hurt yet, it’s really funny. I’m always fascinated watching animals adjust to what we do do to them and their environments, especially with the boldness of apex predators. Then of course there are the videos of cats beating up bears. 🙂

    I’m glad a sanctuary will take him. I don’t knew how involved make bears are in cold rearing (sp?) but it’s not behavior that needs to be taught to the next generation. However, i hope he survives. I’m sure they’ll do their best but it’s essentially caging him.

    Is this the bear that usually wins the fattest bear contest?

    This must be a very rich town that no one is complaining about the cost if the damage he’s done by breaking into houses.

    Why would this guy give his full name and tell one if the most read papers in the world that he doesn’t lock his doors?!

  9. curachel20 says:

    I used to live in Tahoe and one of my jobs was cleaning houses. One house had notes posted everywhere to always keep doors locked because otherwise bears would just come in. My friends had a bear come in their house one night and was eating out of their fridge when the got up to use the bathroom. Lol! It’s not super unusual. Scary, yes. Uncommon- not really when you are in bear territory

    • Jules says:

      Yes, the last time I went camping I had a bear outside my tent. Middle of the night, he was moving around and making bear noises. I was terrified, but he moved on and now I can say I got some bear medicine lol.

    • TheBayTea says:

      Pretty sure Hank tried to break in the last time I was in Tahoe. Our dog raised hell in the middle of the night, and we awoke to find him facing off with the bear through a glass door. We had to get big and scare him off. Then he tried to scale the 2 story back porch! Honestly, bears are like raccoons in Tahoe. They’re everywhere.

  10. tw says:

    I’m relieved he is being taken to the Sanctuary. NPR reported yesterday that another bear with a similar situation was tagged and relocated to a remote area. Sadly, because the bear had become accustomed to eating human food, he could no longer thrive in a natural environment. He eventually was shot and killed after he repeatedly approached a camp site. He was emaciated at the time of his death. It’s all very sad. So the sanctuary really is Hank’s only chance for survival.

  11. MissMarirose says:

    As I was reading about that guy saying he’ll lock his doors now, I chuckled thinking of that video of the bear break-in that went viral last year. Then, you all post it at the end. lol
    Doesn’t seem like locking the door will make much of a difference, but good luck anyway!

    • BeanieBean says:

      Yeah, it really doesn’t. Yosemite has this great interpretive display wherein they’ve got half of a car mounted on a plinth; the car’s left-side back door was peeled back–because the people had left food in the car & the bear wanted it. If a bear can peel back a car door your house door won’t even slow it down.

  12. AppleCart says:

    I always get bummed out when a wild animal becomes well known. Some A hole hunter will get a hard on to kill him. Like Pedals the Bear in NJ. He was killed in 2016. Just a nice bear that walked on his hind legs due to an injury. So of course he became a trophy prize for this guy that was obsessed with killing him for no reason other than bragging rights.

  13. jferber says:

    I’m so upset that they’re talking about catching and euthanizing him. The Gentle Giant needs to be moved to a bear refuge or a huge park with bears and let him live his life there. Is there a way to protest the bear killing plans? He’s just a hungry, non-violent big bear. Let him live!

  14. A.Key says:

    And now some idiot will go and kill him. I hate humans. This bear was just existing and trying to stay alive. Suddenly he’s a threat to humanity? BS, humans are the threat to all wildlife, not the other way around.

  15. Milkweed says:

    I’m rooting for Hank! He’s such a mastermind. Waiting for just the right house to hit at just the right time and escaping back into the woods. I read there is a lot of overlap between what the smartest bears and the dumbest humans can do.