A notorious 500-pound black bear responsible for a spate of home invasions over the last year was finally successfully captured in Lake Tahoe on Friday. The female bear, known as “Hank the Tank,” broke into 21 different homes with three cubs in tow. She will be transferred to a sanctuary in Colorado if her veterinary check goes well.
South Lake Tahoe has been plagued by home invasions by what authorities believed was one lone male black bear. The break-ins were, in fact, four different bears responsible for “152 reports of conflict behavior,” including 28 break-ins, NPR reported. The initial claims that all the home invasions were based on one bear were based solely on visual reports, but when the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) conducted DNA tests on the bear captured on Friday, it linked the animal, formally known as Bear 64F, to at least 21 burglaries.
Bear 64F has been tracked since 2022, but when she was discovered under a residence in South Lake Tahoe with her three cubs in March 2023, the CDFW and the Nevada Department of Wildlife immobilized her, collected her DNA, and attached an ear tag and a satellite tracking collar. The bear lost the collar in May, but her DNA helped authorities confirm she was the one responsible for the home invasions and is suspected of additional break-ins and damage to property.
The CDFW said in a press release that it does not typically relocate animals that have exhibited “conflict behavior,” instead euthanizing them over the fear they will carry their behaviors into a different community. However, given the widespread investment in 64F from the community, the CDFW approved the bear’s relocation to Colorado Parks and Wildlife to “safeguard the bear family.”
The community came to the bear’s rescue, advocating for “Hank the Tank” and blaming habitat encroachment and unsecured garbage cans as the reason for the bear’s behavior. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis welcomed Bear 64F to the animal sanctuary in a Twitter post on Friday. “We welcome ‘Hank the Tank’ (turned out to be Henrietta the Tank) to Colorado!” he wrote.
The bear’s three cubs will be transferred to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, pending a veterinary evaluation, which said one of the cubs appeared to have been seriously injured in a vehicle strike. The cub is still mobile and more exams will be conducted before the cubs can move to the sanctuary where the CDFW said it hopes “they can discontinue the negative behaviors they learned from the sow and can be returned to the wild.”