'Hank the Tank' Caught: Burglar Bear's Crime Spree Comes to an End—But With a Twist

The bear's long reign of adorable terror is over.
“Hank the Tank,” bear blamed for string of Tahoe break-ins, captured along with her cubs
“Hank the Tank,” bear blamed for string of Tahoe break-ins, captured along with her cubs / CBS Sacramento

For months, the tony waterfront community of Lake Tahoe, California, has been ravaged by a black bear with a predilection for break-ins and foraging. Last week, he was finally apprehended. But “Hank the Tank,” as the bear came to be known, turned out to have been a she.

As NPR reports, the bear was caught Friday, August 4, after a crime spree dating back to February 2022. In all, “Hank” was responsible for 21 home invasions in the community, and she made burglaries the family business: The bear was usually accompanied by three cubs.

How can a bear gain access to homes? Through simple brute force. At nearly 300 pounds (females) and 500 pounds (males), bears can use their weight to bash into doors and garages. In at least one case, Hank entered through a glass window. In another, she demolished exterior siding. Residents often complained the bear scratched up cars.

Much of it was intended to locate the crown jewel (for a bear) of any home: the fridge. “They know what refrigerators look like, and they know what’s in them,” Jordan Traverso, a spokesperson for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, told The New York Times.

But Hank wasn’t the only offender. In all, wildlife officials believe up to three bears were responsible for the rash of break-ins, in which the bears gained access to private residences in search of food. Hank was linked to the majority thanks to DNA evidence left behind.

Part of what made Lake Tahoe attractive to bears is the prohibition on “bear boxes,” or animal-resistant trash containers. Deemed unsightly, some homeowners associations ban them. But with freestanding and unsecured garbage, Hank and other bears likely learned to associate homes with food.

Once caught, brazen bears often face being euthanized owing to the danger posed to communities. Thanks to Hank’s notoriety, it appears she is instead headed to a bear sanctuary in Colorado. Her cubs, meanwhile, could return to the wild provided they regain a healthy apprehension of humans.