• Thu. May 19th, 2022

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California authorities looking for large, furry suspect in 7-month crime wave

He’s got a record, including 33 cases of breaking and entering, 102 police responses and 152 reports of “conflict behavior,” authorities said.

Although the people of South Lake Tahoe, California, have endured his seven-month spree, some in the community are now concerned about the fate of 500-pound Hank the Tank, a wanted bear.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife says the black bear is so used to being around people and human food that it might not fare well on its own ever again.

“This bear is extremely food-habituated and has used its immense size and strength to break in and through front doors and garage doors,” it said.

Experts say the devastating California wildfires of recent years have pushed black bear populations into more urban areas as they search for food.

“They’re supposed to be hibernating,” said Lt. Jeff Roberson of the South Lake Tahoe Police Department. “They’re used to people and being fed year-round. They don’t really do the bear stuff.”

The Fish and Wildlife Department suggests Hank might be running out of options.

“While the Lake Tahoe area has a healthy and dense bear population, euthanizing an animal is always our last option,” it said. “CDFW is currently evaluating the possibility of placement of this bear when captured.” 

Even sanctuary placement, it said, would be difficult, because Hank might not adjust.

The nonprofit Bear League has taken up Hank’s cause and says some in the community have guarded bear traps to save him and others from certain death.

Executive Director Ann Bryant says no traps are currently deployed and that multiple wildlife sanctuaries are ready to accept Hank.

“We believe he’s one of our neighbors, and he’s only doing what he’s been taught to do,” Bryant said.

The Fish and Wildlife Department might agree. It says the problem with Hank is that neighbors haven’t been doing their part.

“The outcome for this food-habituated bear could have been avoided with a few simple actions,” it said. “Bears are primarily scent-driven when seeking food. As such, we ask again that everyone remain vigilant and act responsibly by properly storing food and garbage while living in — or visiting — bear habitat.”

Colin Sheeley, Lindsey Pipia and Kristen Dahlgren contributed.