The Inertia Contributing Editor
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South Lake Tahoe bear

Good news: Yogi/Jake/Hank the Tank is off the hook. Photo: BEAR League/Facebook


The Inertia

You may have seen headlines earlier this week — maybe you even read it right here—but a black bear named Yogi, Jake, or most often Hank the Tank, has been wreaking havoc in South Lake Tahoe. According to reports, the 500-pound bear was responsible for 150 emergency calls and damage to nearly 40 homes. Things were looking grim for Yogi/Jake/Hank when California Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) officials decided the best way to take care of the situation was to euthanize the bear.

But in an unexpected twist of fate, DNA evidence collected by CDFW over the past few months revealed that the damage originally attributed to Hank the Tank is, in fact, the work of multiple bears. The results of the DNA testing showed that at least three bears were responsible for the break-ins.

“Identifying bears simply by their visible, physical characteristics can lead to misidentifying bears and therefore confusing management efforts,” CDFW said in a recent statement. “The genetic information gleaned from our effort in the South Lake Tahoe area will assist CDFW by expanding its database of bear genetics and hopefully preventing future misidentification of bears.”

Because multiple bears were involved in the break-ins, the CDFW decided to take a different approach. Instead of euthanizing Hank, the new plan is to tag, study, and eventually release the bears into more suitable habitats. So far, the bears have been harmless and residents don’t appear to be too alarmed.

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“He just sits there and eats,” Ann Bryant, executive director of the Bear League, a wildlife rescue service in Homewood, Calif., told The New York Times. “He doesn’t attack them. He doesn’t growl. He doesn’t make rude faces.”

To prevent future break-ins and ensure the safety of residents, the CDFW encourages Lake Tahoe homeowners to “bear-proof” their homes by installing bear-proof garbage receptacles and make sure food and garbage is properly stored.

 

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