500-Pound Bear Breaks Into Dozens of Lake Tahoe Homes

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

The bear, nicknamed “Hank the Tank,” may be euthanized as a last resort

A hefty, 500-pound bear is causing havoc in South Lake Tahoe by breaking into and damaging dozens of homes.

CBS13 Sacramento reports the bear, which has been nicknamed “Hank the Tank” for its immense size, is well known by California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officers who’ve been trying to capture him for more than six months.

Locals have called authorities about the pesky bear more than 150 times and are so fed up that some are asking whether or not it’s time to put the bear down.

“These are neighborhoods, there’s a lot of people around, traffic and cars. So, we have to do this in a way that is safe for both the public and the bear itself,” CDFW spokesperson Peter Tira said. “This is a severely food habituated bear. What that means is this is a bear that has lost all fear of people and it sees people and homes as a source of food.”

Bridget Marchetti Philip, a resident in the area, said, “I’m tired of having to fear our lives quite frankly because of what the bear may or may not do.”

Philip and her family live on the same street where Hank’s most recent break-in took place the morning of Friday, Feb. 18.

The chubby bear broke a small window and managed to squeeze through into the home.  

Officers were called to the scene and banged on the house’s exterior to scare the bear out through the back door. They remained in the area to ensure no one got hurt and the bear caused no more damage.

Philip’s brother-in-law, John Barrett, said he’s worried about his children’s safety.

“We have to be able to protect our children and be able to walk outside of our house,” he said.

After attempts to trap the bear failed, wildlife officials decided to remove the traps.

“The trapping activity is a measure of last resort to capture and euthanize a specific and what we call a severely habituated or human-food conditioned black bear,” Tira told KCRA 3. “For months — and despite hazing and other mitigation efforts, the target bear has caused extensive property damage and forcefully entered several homes — including occupied homes — in and near the Tahoe Keys.”

The Bear League, a community organization committed to keeping bears safe and wild in their natural habitat, says killing Hank would be cruel and unnecessary.

Ann Bryant, executive director of the group, told KCRA 3 options other than euthanasia should be considered.

“The BEAR League reached out to the director of an excellent out-of-state wildlife sanctuary who agreed he has room and would be very willing to give this bear a permanent home,” Bryant said.

However, the CDFW said relocation comes with a lot of requirements, which may not be met in this situation, and can take a toll on the animal’s mental health.

According to KCRA, the BEAR League group has offered to pay all relocation expenses.

As it works to resolve this issue, the CDFW is urging residents in the area to remain vigilant and to securely store food, so as not to attract bears.  

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