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After 21 alleged home break-ins, bear family captured in South Lake Tahoe

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After allegedly breaking into nearly two dozen homes, a female black bear and her three male cubs have been captured by wildlife biologists in South Lake Tahoe, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The bear — whose DNA authorities say was found at 21 homes over the past year — is one of several residents have referred to as “Hank the Tank.” During her last few home invasions, her cubs came along for the ride, and together, the bear family has been suspected of even more break-ins and additional property damage, the state agency said Friday.

“Relocation is not typically an option for conflict animals over concern that relocating an animal will relocate the conflict behavior to a different community,” the agency said in a press release. “However, given the widespread interest in this bear, and the significant risk of a serious incident involving the bear, CDFW is employing an alternative solution to safeguard the bear family as well as the people in the South Lake Tahoe community.”

Now, the four family members are headed their separate ways. After veterinary checks, the mother bear will be sent to a wildlife sanctuary in Colorado, while the cubs will go to a rehabilitation facility in Sonoma County. Colorado Parks and Wildlife has the authority to approve only one placement of this kind, CDFW said.

This female bear and her three cubs were captured by wildlife biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday, August 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
This female bear and her three cubs were captured by wildlife biologists from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife on Friday, August 4, 2023. Photo courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

In Sonoma, the hope is that the three bear cubs will learn to lose their break-in habits and, eventually, be fit to return to the wild.

The state agency has been monitoring the mother bear, whom they call 64F, since 2022. In March of 2023, she and her cubs were discovered hibernating under a South Lake Tahoe residence — and after authorities immobilized the bears, they collected DNA evidence and attached tracking devices to the mother’s ear and neck. They also implanted each bear cub with a microchip, similar to those used to identify domestic cats and dogs.

Though the mother bear soon lost her tracking collar, her DNA placed her at the scene of the home invasions later that year, CDFW said.

One of the cubs is believed to have been injured in a car strike earlier this month, authorities said, though he is still mobile. He, along with all the bears, will be thoroughly examined in the days to come.

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