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Suburban California Wildlife: Hank the Tank Hates Your Garage Door


Many Californians know firsthand how close neighbors we are with the local bears. There’s only so much we can do – they were here first, and they’re a little big to be scolding to get off your lawn. Well, in early 2022, one absolute behemoth of a black bear, who is now fondly referred to as Hank the Tank, decided that he wanted to go on an open house tour of his South Lake Tahoe neighborhood. Except there were no open houses…

Hank is 500lbs, so if he decides he wants into your house, he’s getting in. For reference, he’s about 200lbs overweight for a black bear; he could definitely use a cardio routine. Don’t ask us how this 500-lb food addict achieved several of these B&Es by crawling through small windows. However, Hank’s two favorite ways to break in are via front doors and garage doors. They’re bear-sized or bigger, and there’s no such thing as a “bear-load” rating for an overhead door – even the highest wind load and hurricane doors have fallen prey to Hank’s giant size and enthusiasm for taking food that isn’t his.

In just a few months, Hank the Tank racked up 152 conflict calls and well over 40 break-ins. Does home insurance include bears under the acts of god clause? Anyway, despite his massive size, Hank has proven pretty difficult to catch, or to deter. Garbage-bin pizza is a lot easier to get than foraged forest food; work smart, not hard. 

Authorities and residents have used paint ball guns, bean bags, sirens, and tasers, but nothing seems to work. At this point, we all hope Hank moves on or is caught before the CDFW decides euthanasia is the best option. (It never is.) The Lake Tahoe region is now adopting bear boxes in order to get garbage away from homes, so as to take his motivation to contort himself through 24” windows and ransack kitchens away. 

These kinds of things have been happening more often in recent years. In fact, Hank’s not the only bear currently burglarizing Tahoe homes right now. Development and wildfires have decimated bears’ natural habitat. That means less space and less food for them to forage. As a result, they’ve slowly encroached on towns and cities, where it’s easier to find food. Unfortunately, this has also habituated them to humans, and that poses a risk to people who encounter a bear in an adverse situation or don’t know the safe way to respond in a bear encounter.

Here’s the thing; Hank’s a black bear. He’s huge, but he’s just a black bear. In general, they’re shy, and want as little to do with you as you do with them. He is no longer afraid of people, but that’s a far cry from saying he’s aggressive. He’s not a grizzly, after all. He’s just hungry, and he’s learned the easiest way to find delicious food and stuff himself to the brim is inside your home. Change that, and he’ll go find snacks somewhere else. The Bear League, CDFW, and local law enforcement are all hoping to outwit this big lug and get him to a wildlife sanctuary. 

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