Mischievous 227kg burglar bear named ‘Hank the Tank’ with appetite for human food captured after year-long chase

7 August 2023, 20:09

'Hank the Tank' has escaped euthanasia due to her popularity.
'Hank the Tank' has escaped euthanasia due to her popularity. Picture: Facebook/Lake Tahoe BEAR League

By Jenny Medlicott

A black bear known for breaking into homes has finally been captured after more than a year of being chased by authorities.

The bear, known as Hank the Tank, has finally been captured after more than a year-long chase.

Since 2022, Hank has been linked to 21 home break-ins in the Lake Tahoe area, California by DNA evidence.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said in a statement on Friday that the bear had been “safely immobilised” after she was tranquillised by a dart on Friday morning.

Hank, actually a female bear formally registered as bear 64F, is now set to be moved to the Wild Animal sanctuary in Colorado, providing her health check comes back successfully.

Hank, who Colorado Governor Jared Polis joked should be named ‘Henrietta’, has scratched cars, climbed stairs, ripped off doors and and been reported countless times in the last year.

Spokeswoman of the CDFW Jordan Traverso said bears are “incredibly adept with their hands” and “they know what refrigerators look like, and they know what’s in them”.

But her three cubs are going their separate ways from their mum, as they’re instead set to be transferred to a separate facility in California’s Sonoma County, with the eventual aim of re-releasing them into the wild.

Californian authorities said relocating such an animal is “not typically an option”, but Hank’s notoriety has made it possible.

“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,” a statement said.

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Hank the Bear has avoided authorities for more than a year.
Hank the Bear has avoided authorities for more than a year. Picture: Facebook/Lake Tahoe BEAR League

Her cubs are being moved to a separate facility “in hopes they can discontinue the negative behaviours they learned from the sow and can be returned to the wild”.

Originally it was believed Hank was responsible for more than 40 break-ins, until DNA samples found that the two other large bears with a taste for human food were also involved in the additional break-ins.

While the fate of the other two bear ‘offenders’ is not known, California officials have reassured the public “no bears will be be euthanised, harmed, relocated to some facility or placed in a zoo”.

Pat Craig, the founder and executive director of the sanctuary Hank will be relocated to said her circumstances are “pretty rare”, as he said most “problem bears” are euthanised.

Attempting to explain Hank’s behaviour, biologists have suggested the comparatively large black black bear grew unafraid of humans and learnt to apply her strength to breaking into people’s homes.

Speaking in 2022, CDFW spokesman said: “When you have a bear forcibly crashing its way through a garage door or ripping open a front door with people inside, that's pretty brazen and unusual.”

CDFW also said at the time: “This bear is extremely food-habituated and has used its immense size and strength to break in and through front doors and garage doors.”