Guard your locks, it’s three bears! Trio of black bears now believed behind Tahoe break-ins

Black bear up in a tree
At least one black bear suspected of breaking into homes in search of food in a South Lake Tahoe neighborhood is spotted in a tree.
(Toogee Sielsch)

Hank the Tank is actually a three-bear battalion.

DNA evidence now shows that the 500-pound black bear that the public had nicknamed “Hank the Tank” is, in fact, at least three not-so-little bears that have damaged more than 30 properties around Lake Tahoe in recent months.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday said it would 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,” and the agency said no trapped animals would be euthanized as part of the project.

The bears are responsible for more than 150 incident reports in the region straddling Northern California and Nevada, including a break-in at a residence in the Tahoe Keys neighborhood last week.


The state hasn’t conducted a true bear count in years.

Feb. 5, 2022

One of the thieving trio smashed a window last week and squeezed into the house on Catalina Drive while the residents were at home, CBS Sacramento reported. Police responded and banged on the outside of the house until the animal exited through the back door and disappeared into the woods.

Also dubbed Jake and Yogi and simply Big Guy, the single bear thought responsible for the break-ins was what one wildlife official described as a “severely food-habituated bear” that has “lost all fear of people” and thinks of them as a food source.

“What’s problematic about this bear is how large it is,” Peter Tira, a spokesman for the fish and wildlife department, told SF Gate on Sunday. “It’s learned to use that size and strength to break into a number of occupied residences, bursting through the garage door or front door.”