We’ve said it for months: Intentionally feeding wild animals, while perhaps fun and cute, has disastrous consequences. Yes, bears love a snack—but attracting them to your property has serious consequences, ranging from hefty fines and property destruction to risk of life and limb (for both you and the animal). There’s no better representation of human/wildlife conflict than Hank the Tank, an extremely rotund black bear who’s recently broken into more than two dozen homes in South Lake Tahoe, California, to rummage for treats.
Who is Hank the Tank?
The New York Times chatted with Peter Tira, a spokesman for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Tira reports that locals have called the police about Hank, who weighs in at a whopping 500 pounds, more than 100 times since last July. At this time, Hank has broken into 28 homes, despite department officials’ efforts to deter the big boy with paintballs, bean bags, sirens, and even Tasers. In the end, nothing gets between Hank and his tasty freebies.
“It’s easier to find leftover pizza than to go in the forest,” Tira explained, unpacking Hank’s motives.
All that leftover pizza has contributed to Hank’s status as a Serious Chunker. At 500 pounds, he weighs significantly more than other black bears in the region, reports the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. For obvious reasons, such a massive animal could pose a threat to human residents.
“This is a bear that has lost all fear of people,” Tira told the Times. “It’s a potentially dangerous situation.”
How do you stop a bear from eating humans’ food?
Local wildlife authorities are working to trap Hank for potential relocation or, worst-case scenario, euthanasia. And while locals are sick of Hank’s antics, they’re opposed to the potential death sentence.
One Times interviewee, Ann Bryant, affectionately called the bear a “big dummy,” pointing out that he’s never shown aggression toward human residents when he breaks into a home. “He just sits there and eats,” Bryant says. “He doesn’t attack them. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t make rude faces.”
Still, regular bear break-ins aren’t ideal. And while it’s unclear how Hank developed his taste for human food, I’d wager that it has something to do with improper bear conduct.
Consider this your reminder to freshen up on bear etiquette.