California's Rogue Black Bear Hank the Tank Still Alive and Rampaging Around Town

A huge, 500-pound bear known as Hank the Tank remains alive and on the loose in California despite plans to catch and kill him.

The bear has destroyed property at dozens of homes in South Lake Tahoe Keys, east of Sacramento. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) said it has been called over 150 times about Hank, who has frequented the town since July.

The enormous bear has broken into 33 residential properties in search of food over seven months, the CDFW told SFGATE. Pictures shared by the South Lake Tahoe Police Department showed that in the latest incident the bear broke through the small window of a house and searched for food while the homeowners were still inside. The bear only left after police hazed it with loud noises to scare it off.

The CDFW put out a trap in Tahoe Keys designed to catch Hank on February 4. However, KCRA News reported on February 17 that the trap had been removed after it failed to catch the bear. The trap was graffitied with the words "bear killer" before it was taken away.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 black bears are now thought to inhabit around 52,000 square miles in California. Trapping bears is illegal in the state except in damage prevention cases.

"When wildlife officials make the decision to put down a bear it is certainly not something they want to do," Kim Titchener, founder of Bear Safety & More, told Newsweek. "It is most often the only option left due to poor behavior on the part of people. If the bear was getting into garbage, that is on the local community to clean up their act."

CDFW told SFGATE it was reassessing its plans to euthanize the bear and considering a relocation effort. However relocating the bear may not be in its best interests: "You relocate a bear like this, you relocate a problem to another community," CDFW spokesperson Peter Tira told the website. "You relocate it to the wilderness, and they starve because they're not used to hunting for food. They die a slow, agonizing death."

Footage posted by the BEAR League to Facebook on Sunday showed Hank the Tank on the porch of a home in the town. The group opposes the euthanasia plans and said it was speaking with sanctuaries that are interested in relocating Hank.

This video was taken by a security camera on Balboa Drive in the Tahoe Keys this past Thursday afternoon. Obviously, this is the world renown ‘Hank the...

"Everyone is expressing their horror over the plans to kill Hank," Ann Bryant, the director of Bear League said in the Facebook post. "We haven't talked to or heard from a single person who thinks the bear deserves to die."

Advice published on the CDFW website advised residents across the state to take various measures designed to minimize human-bear conflict and keep the bears wild. This includes bear-proofing garbage cans and not leaving them outside until the morning of a trash collection day and keeping any scented products inside.

"Bears don't naturally eat garbage but if they gain access to it they are going to choose for it over eating their natural food sources," Titchener said. "Communities that live with bears need to take responsibility for ensuring bears do not get into unnatural food sources such as using bear resistant garbage bins, bear education programs."

Stock image of a black bear
Stock image of a black bear. Authorities said they had received over 150 calls about Hank the Tank since he started frequenting South Lake Tahoe Keys in July last year. Getty Images/Clayton Rowe