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SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Hank the Tank is actually a three-bear battalion.
DNA evidence now shows that the 500-pound black bear the public had nicknamed "Hank the Tank" is, in fact, at least three not-so-little bears who have damaged more than 30 properties around Lake Tahoe in recent months.
The state Department of Fish and Wildlife on Thursday said it will 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 will 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.
One of the Hanks smashed a window Friday, Feb. 18, 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 Hank exited out the back door and disappeared into the woods.
Also known as Jake or Yogi or simply Big Guy, the then-solo bear 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 California Department of Fish and Wildlife, 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."
Once the trapping efforts begin, the three Hanks — at least — may well form a brigade.