A 500-pound bear blamed for ransacking nearly 30 South Lake Tahoe homes for food, who has become a massive internet celebrity in the process, is partially exonerated as DNA evidence shows this has been the work of at least four different bears.
One does not normally become an internet hero for breaking into nearly 30 homes, ransacking the places, and stealing all the available food in sight, and generating more than 100 police complaints in a seven-month span. But a 500-pound black bear named who has come to be nicknamed Hank the Tank has reportedly been on a reign of rummaging through homes, growing to nearly double the size of normal black bear on that tasty human food that he so loves, and even getting a Sunday New York Times profile on his series of food-driven home invasions.
“This is a bear that has lost all fear of people,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesperson Peter Tira told the New York Times. “It’s a potentially dangerous situation.” According to the Times, there is even talk of euthanizing Hank, an issue that has polarized the South Lake Tahoe community.
Also, solidarity to Hank the Tank for plundering the homes of the rich. https://t.co/YEwxvxFxMd— Nick Estes (@nickwestes) February 21, 2022
But hold on — new DNA evidence is, to some degree, exonerating big ol’ Hank the Tank. KGO reports that California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has determined that at least three different bears are responsible for the damage based on their DNA evidence assessment.
A Tahoe-based wildlife advocacy group Bear League is thrilled with the news. "DFW notified us and verified our suspicions that DNA has now proved Hank is Not responsible for even half of the bear home incursions,” the group said in a Facebook post. “There are three other bears who have been in more homes than Hank… but he was taking the rap… probably due to his size…. and extreme handsomeness.”
“Two of the other bears are females,” the group adds.
If you’re against him, I’m against you. pic.twitter.com/FzESEaqqOq— Andrew NoChillary (@AndrewHilaryUS) February 22, 2022
According the Chronicle, this means Hank the Tank “temporarily avoided state-sanctioned euthanization,” though officials will attempt to trap and relocate all three (or more) bears. They urge residents to cooperate by allowing bear traps on their property, and to very carefully store their food and trash, as the scent is what attracts bears.
You can’t put a bear on your flag then be shocked when Hank the Tank shows up to your house— Nathan Baldwin (He/Him) (@nathan_jbaldwin) February 21, 2022
“By working together, these efforts to protect residents and bears can be successful,” the CDFW said in a statement. “We appreciate everyone’s engagement as we work through this situation in a thoughtful, science-based, transparent manner.”
Surely it’s scary to have a bear break into your home, and the costly damage is no laughing matter. But one cannot help but be amused at the above Facebook post by the South Lake Tahoe Police department, and the many hundreds of commenters coming to Hank’s defense. “Please stop calling SLTPD dispatch to voice your opinion about Hank,” the department says. “They're being inundated with aggressive callers, taking away from their ability to handle actual emergency calls.”
“This is really a cute and sweet way to get people BEARY aware of bear safety,” says one of the more sane responses, adding, “we’re technically on their turf.”
Related: Tahoe Bears Took Advantage Of Empty Neighborhoods, Went to Town on Trash Cans, Rotting Food [SFist]
Image: Bear League