▶ Watch Video: “Hank the Tank,” troublesome Lake Tahoe bear, being sent to Colorado sanctuary

A beloved but troublesome black bear linked to a spate of home invasions in and around Lake Tahoe has been captured and will be moved to a sanctuary in Colorado, pending a successful veterinary check, wildlife officials confirmed last week. 

Nicknamed “Hank the Tank,” the animal was one of several large bears that gained notoriety in recent years for wreaking havoc on the South Lake Tahoe community. This particular bear, a female formally registered as 64F by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, is responsible for at least 21 home break-ins and “extensive property damage” in the South Lake Tahoe area since 2022, the department said in a news release issued on Friday. 

Her involvement in those incidents was verified through DNA testing, which the agency used early last year to identify at least four “Hanks” causing problems across a wide stretch of land between Northern California and Nevada. At the time, authorities had already connected the bears to about 150 incident reports, including break-ins and damage to more than 30 properties in various parts of the region.

Wildlife biologists captured and “safely immobilized” Hank, along with her three cubs, on Friday morning, according to the state wildlife department. She will be transported to Colorado and placed in The Wild Animal Sanctuary, a sprawling refuge with facilities spanning more than 33,000 acres, according to its website, after clearing a veterinary exam. 

A large black bear, one of several nicknamed “Hank the Tank” by the public, was captured by California wildlife officials after wreaking havoc on the South Lake Tahoe community.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The bear’s young cubs, which have accompanied their mother on recent home invasions, will potentially be moved to Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue, a rehabilitation facility in Pentaluma, “in hopes they can discontinue the negative behaviors they learned from the sow and can be returned to the wild,” officials said. They believe one of the three cubs was seriously injured in a vehicle strike earlier this month. Although hurt, the cub is still mobile and will undergo a more thorough veterinary exam after all three had initial health assessments in the field.

California wildlife officials have been monitoring Hank the Tank since last year. This past March, they found her and her three cubs denning under a home in South Lake Tahoe, and worked with the Nevada Department of Wildlife to temporarily immobilize the bear and attach an ear tag, tracking collar and microchip for identification. Although she shed the tracking collar in May, authorities were ultimately able to find Hank and link her to the nearly two dozen home invasions by comparing DNA samples taken from those properties. 

Hank will be separated from her cubs because the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department can only approve one placement and is using the authorization for this bear, the California wildlife department said.

“Relocation is not typically an option for conflict animals over concern that relocating an animal will relocate the conflict behavior to a different community,” the department said in Friday’s news release. “However, 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.”