Bear Burglar Hank the Tank’s Cubs Released Back Into the Wild

The offspring of a burglarizing bear have been successfully released back into the wild.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently shared an update on the three cubs of Hank the Tank, a black bear implicated in roughly 20 home invasions in the Tahoe area last year. The persistent food thief was captured late last summer and, due to the hordes of fans she accumulated, was sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado rather than being put down, as often happens to bears that associate people with food.


Her cubs, meanwhile, were given another shot at a life in the wild through rehabilitation at Sonoma County Wildlife Rescue. While there, staff worked to rid them of their mother’s eating habits and put a little fear of humans into them.

The staff’s work appears to have paid off, as a video from CDFW shows the trio – along with a fourth cub whose mother abandoned him – being released into the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains. The release was accompanied by yelling, air horns, and nontoxic paint balls to push them on their way. The hope is that they’ll be wary enough of humans to stick to their natural diet.


In the video, CDFW Tahoe Bear Specialist Alexia Ronning explained, “We want them to be very responsive to hazing. If you were to yell at them or clap your hands, they should be running away, going up a tree, things like that. I don’t want to say they’re going to be scared of us, but they should have extreme caution. For example, if you were to run into a black bear in the woods, they should stop in their tracks and look at you and be very cautious about your presence and most likely not want to stick around.”

This would be in stark contrast to Hank, who was redubbed “Henrietta” after it was learned that she was a she and one of three bears looting homes for food, all assumed to be males. Ronning says at least 80% of her diet had been human food, something she was teaching her cubs.

To ensure they stay on the straight and narrow and are settling properly back into a wild life, the cubs have been equipped with collars that relay their position every hour. After nine months, the collars are programmed to fall off and then be retrieved for future use.


If you want to ensure your behavior doesn’t encourage a future Hank the Tank situation, CDFW provides some tips. Be sure to secure garbage, recycling, and compost in bear-proof containers and to remove such items, along with scented products, from your yard and car. Thoroughly clean your grill after use and store it inside, and – it should probably go without saying – don’t actually feed bears.

You can check out the video of the cubs’ release below.

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