Hank the Tank, a 500-pound black bear committing home invasions in the Lake Tahoe region, has obviously proved that black bears in the area enter a state of topor, not hibernation, in the Lake Tahoe winters. Typically, black bears are smaller than brown bears and polar bears are much larger than black bears. However, Hank the Tank is now called Hanks the Tanks. Community members have given the Hanks other aliases: Yogi, Chunky and the Big Guy.
DNA solves more than human crimes. DNA evidence has found that the original Hank the Tank is three large black bears. Topor is a physical state of mammals and birds marked by lowered body temperatures and metabolic rates, which conserves energy due to a limited availability of natural food sources. Torpid wildlife species do not sleep through winter, but eat less during topor while experiencing lower expenditures of energy.
On February 25, 2023, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) reported that the DNA samples they collected from the homes Hank broke into came from the first Hank and two other bears. Hank the Tank weighs much more than a typical black bear, and the DNA evidence proves that there are at least two other abnormally large black bears committing the home invasions.
Is Hank the Tank Bear Still Alive?
The Hank the Tanks have certainly made themselves known. As of Tuesday, February 21, 2023, at least 150 people had sighted Hank and called the CDFW. By Saturday, February 25, there were three known Hanks, as evidenced by DNA samples. The original CDFW plan was to move Hank the Tank to a sanctuary and avoid any attempt to euthanize him. As of February 21, the three bears had invaded 28 homes.
Yes, Hank the Tank I, Hank the Tank II, and Hank the Tank III are all alive as of February 25, 2023. Now CDFW’s plan is to: 1. Keep all three bears from breaking into homes. 2. Trap, tase, and tag the bears. 3. Save the three bears from euthanasia at all costs.
Is the 500-Pound Black Bear in South Lake Tahoe Community to Be Euthanized?
Any time nuisance wildlife wreaks havoc, causes danger to humans and pets, or damage property in neighborhoods and communities, wildlife management agencies take action to do everything possible to avoid euthanizing the nuisance animals or wildlife. That does not stop individuals from killing the wildlife causing the problem, especially when nuisance wildlife threatens their families, pets, livestock, and properties.
No, not if at all possible. The CDFW reported on Thursday, February 23, 2023, “… it will soon begin trapping bears in the South Lake Tahoe area to tag the animals and collect evidence for genetic analysis. The bears will be released in a “suitable habitat”… no trapped animals will be euthanized as part of the project.
How Old Is Hank the Tank Bear?
It is difficult to age a bear after it grows from a cub. The most precise method to age a bear is to use a microscope to count the rings in a cross section of one of its teeth roots. The bears cementum, which is the outer layer of the root, adds a new layer every year, like tree trunk rings. There are other less accurate ways to age a bear, which we will discuss further.
We do not know how old the three Hanks the Tanks are. No one with knowledge about how to age a bear, accurately or less precisely, has so far reported being able to get close enough to the Tahoe bears to tell their ages. The CDFW has not reported on the probable ages of Hanks the Tanks as of February 25, 2023.
The oldest reported bear in the U.S. was 39-years-old from Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources gave Bear Number 59, a female, a radio collar when she was seven years old. In the 32 years Number 59 was under surveillance, she birthed 23 pups. A black bear’s average life span is ten to 30 years and can live from 21 to 39 years in the wild.
In 2021, Katie Martin, the co-lead of Virginia’s bear management program and the statewide deer, bear, and turkey biologist for the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), gave an interview to the VDWR about how to tell the age of a black bear. She reported it is tricky to age a bear if you have not seen many bears and know little about bears.
Martin said that young bears bear a physical resemblance to teenagers, lanky-looking and all limbs, meaning “all legs” on a bear. Young bears carry little body fat, so their legs appear too long for their bodies. Look for a good amount of daylight underneath the bear’s stomach as the bear moves along. A bear’s belly grows closer to the ground as it ages.
Another way to tell if a bear is young is to look at its length of ear span on its head. Young bear’s ears look too big for their heads. Their ears look taller than in proportion to an older bear, and they are much closer together than older bear’s ears. As bears age, their heads grow bigger, their ears are spaced further apart, and they do not stick up as far above the bear’s head.
Tahoe Bear Physical Characteristics
Tahoebears.org helps us to understand the physical characteristics of a California and Nevada bear. Habitat plays a role in how a bear develops physically and what it weighs. A bear in Virginia has access to different geographical resources than a bear in California or Nevada. Typically, a male black bear in the U.S. on average weighs about 400 pounds and a female weights around 175 pounds.
The Hanks the Tanks have been able to far exceed the average black bear weight, obviously. In the Tahoe region, black bears come in colors of black, brown, cinnamon, and tan. Cinnamon-colored black bears are most common in California and Nevada. Sometimes they have a little white patch on their chests. Black bear carry large bodies and have small, narrow heads on strong powerful legs.
The average adult female in the Tahoe area of California and Nevada generally weigh between 100 to 200 pounds is the wild. Males weigh between 250 to 350 pounds or more. There may be an explanation for the huge sizes of the Hanks the Tanks. When bears can source human food, they can easily double the average weight of a wild bear. Lake Tahoe Basin authorities have reported males weighing over 600 pounds long before the Hanks showed up.