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Hank the Tank, the 500-Pound Black Bear Burglar, Escapes Death Thanks to DNA Evidence

Hank the Tank has taken over northern California and the Internet in recent weeks for being the sole suspect in home burglary cases throughout the Lake Tahoe area. Officials were considering lethal plans of actions, when state wildlife officials cleared Hank’s good name using DNA testing.

The 500-pound black bear from Lake Tahoe became an online celebrity following news of him bursting through doors and evading traps set up by California police. The South Lake Tahoe Police Department has been tracking Hank for months, claiming that he was solely responsible for burglarizing nearly three dozen homes in the area. State wildlife officials were working with police to capture the bear, who was declared a “severely food-habituated bear” under California’s 2022 black bear policy, which gives state officials the authority to either euthanize a problematic bear or re-home it to a licensed animal sanctuary.

Officials set up numerous traps that proved to be no match for Hank the Tank. Despite “intense hazing and other mitigation efforts,” Hank could push his way through dead-bolted doors with ease and make himself at home in a stranger’s living room. The local police department has received more than 150 complaints about Hank over the last seven months. He was reported to be behind extensive property damage in 33 cases.

The damage to homes can be pretty damaging financially and emotionally. One homeowner claimed that Hank’s visit caused “roughly $6,000 worth of damage.” Another property owner whose house suffered damage reported that Hank visited their house one two separate occasions back in November.

“He came twice and destroyed our garage door and broke into our freezer, which only had ice in it. It was brand new. The first day our garage was broken into and my husband and I were cleaning up the pieces, he aggressively chased us into our house.”

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It’s becoming a common problem for Californian residents to face off with bears that regularly break into their homes. According to officials, most wander back into the wilderness on their own. If one does stay for long, they can either be re-homed if there is a good fit or euthanized, and Hank was likely to face the latter. However, local animal rights activists defended the big bear, saying that he deserved to be protected.

Thankfully, their efforts in stalling were able to save Hank’s life. Officials from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife said that DNA samples collected from the properties showed that at least two other large black bears had broken into some of the homes. As a result, Hank the Tank won’t be killed or relocated to a sanctuary, but officials are still trying to determine what can be done about the bear burglar.

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