After being suspected of breaking into many residences near South Lake Tahoe, California, Hank the Tank became the target of a bear hunt this month. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) planned to euthanize him for the protection of local citizens, believing that a single bear was responsible for “152 instances of conflict behavior.” However, DNA testing proved that the break-ins were not the work of just one bear, but at least two more, adding a twist to the story of the Bear Burglar. A veritable gang of rogue bears.
“Identifying bears only on the basis of their visual, physical qualities might lead to misidentification and, as a result, confusion in management efforts,” according to NPR. Officials from the CDFW confirmed this. “The genetic data gathered in the South Lake Tahoe area will aid CDFW in increasing its bear genetics database and, perhaps, avoiding future bear misidentifications.”
The South Lake Tahoe Police Department was besieged with calls as animal rights organizations requested that “Hank” not be killed but instead sent to a sanctuary. They stated on Facebook, “Please stop phoning SLTPD dispatch to share your opinion about Hank.” “Aggressive callers are overwhelming them, reducing their ability to handle true emergency calls.”
The prints of a bear (Hank or otherwise) that had slipped into a secure home through a small window were published on the same thread, demonstrating the threat of bear break-ins. The bear was still inside the house when they arrived, which is not something you want to come home to after a long day. However, tests recovered from the crime locations proved that at least two additional bears were responsible for smashing down the doors of California residents, with more bears perhaps implicated. This is good news for Hank, our Tank because it means he won’t be killed or moved.
Because if a single animal is proved to be the source of a considerable number of confrontations with humans, wildlife departments have a responsibility to separate them from the population, his residence in California was called into doubt. However, because the instances are the result of several bears, the CDFW wants to catch and tag bears in the hopes of transferring animals who have become too comfortable with human communities.
This can happen when bears start to link people with food, increasing the chances of people becoming food one day. According to NPR, the CDFW stated, “All of these measures are focused on keeping citizens safe, and providing safe and healthy environments for these bears.”