There is a bigger lesson to learn with Lake Tahoe’s ‘Hank the Tank’ story

California’s 500-lb. black bear, Hank the Tank, made national headlines for reportedly breaking into more than two dozen homes and stealing food. However, when unethical proposals about euthanizing the bear were raised by some officials, many objected to the propositions.


Bear League

Hank the Tank, a 500-lb. bear, was accused of breaking into nearly 30 homes in a California suburb.

A neighborhood in Lake Tahoe, California recently made headlines because of a string of break-ins.

However, these break-ins were not committed by a group of people but rather allegedly by a 500-lb. black bear nicknamed “Hank the Tank.”

Yes, you read that right: a 500-lb black bear allegedly broke into over two dozen houses, 28 to be exact.

The bear, who seems to have lost his fear of people, according to officials, has apparently been living off of a diet consisting mainly of human food and garbage, which is why he has reached the size that he is.

According to a report about the story in The New York Times, although most black bears in the region are hibernating at this time, Hank the Tank does not seem to have been hibernating this winter and has instead resorted to continuously bulking up during the colder months.

The story goes on to say that people whose homes Hank the Tank has broken into have told authorities that the bear does not seem to be very interested in people and that he pretty much just eats in front of people and is not bothered by having humans around.

Although Hank the Tank has caused a considerable amount of property damage in the neighborhood, he has never injured a human during any of his break-ins. Nevertheless, this did not stop some officials in the California Department of Fish and Wildlife from raising the possibility that Hank the Tank would potentially be euthanized.

Some officials became worried about the possibility of Hank the Tank becoming too comfortable around people and that a situation could possibly arise in the future that he hurts someone, despite the fact that he did not hurt a single person during any of his home break-ins.

Many people in the community were repulsed by the idea of the animal being killed, and organizations like Lake Tahoe’s Bear League spoke out prominently against euthanizing Hank the Tank. Additionally, the movement grew even larger when a petition to save Hank the Tank was put online.

Hank the Tank broke a few windows to get into some of the houses. (South Lake Tahoe Police Department)

Then, the story took a major U-turn when California officials reported that Hank the Tank was not actually the only bear responsible for all of the break-ins.

Apparently, three different bears were actually responsible for the string of break-ins in the neighborhood, meaning Hank the Tank did not act alone. This was discovered after DNA left at the scenes of the break-ins were compared, and the results led to three different black bears. This brought relief to many, as officials soon announced that they were no longer considering euthanizing the bear.

Although Hank the Tank will not be killed, there is a larger lesson to learn from this story.

Hank the Tank was doing only what his instincts told him to do. Sure, black bears are not meant to live off of a diet of pizza and garbage, but in winter months when the food is scarce, food left outdoors by people is some of the only nourishment that he could find.

Hank’s life should have never been in danger because of this situation. People leaving food and trash outside, where it is very easily accessible to wild animals, should not be surprised when one begins digging through their garbage.

Additionally, out of all the times Hank broke into homes, he never once hurt anybody; he simply ignored them while he ate food.

I mean, if you move to an area where bears are known to live and to roam around, do you really expect that they will just stay away from your house at all times?

Even if one were to see a black bear, they are much more afraid of humans than people would think, and most of the time, they will run away, most likely up a tree, if they become frightened. An article on covers this and also strikes down a common misconception that black bears are out to get humans and that every encounter with one will almost certainly result in death or even being attacked.

The point is: animals should not be threatened with death all because people decided to build a house in their habitat. Every person has had wild animals dig through their garbage, live in their yards, etc., so if one decides to move to an area where black bears are known to roam, they should be prepared for the possibility of one wandering into their yard.

Yes, bears are obviously more dangerous than common backyard animals, like squirrels. However, they do not deserve to die for simply breaking into some homes and causing some damage. Hank the Tank’s ignoring of the people whose houses he went into serves as proof that he does not have any interest in harming people.

Hank the Tank may not be the serial burglar that he was originally portrayed as, but his story should be a reminder that when you leave your garbage outside, you never know who may go digging through it.