A 500-pound black bear nicknamed “Hank the Tank” has wreaked havoc in California, breaking into homes and prompting at least 150 calls to authorities from concerned residents.
Hank broke into his last home Friday in South Lake Tahoe, according to CBS Sacramento — and neither the owners nor the wildlife officials seem quite sure what to do about him.
“These are neighborhoods, there are a lot of people, traffic and cars. So we have to do it in a way that is safe for the public and the bear itself,” Peter Tira, spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, told the station.
“He’s a very habituated bear to food. That means he’s a bear that has lost all fear of people and looks to people and houses as a source of food.
On Friday, CBS reported, Hank broke “a small window and broke into the house, where the owners had no idea how to get him out.
“Officers responded and knocked outside the house until Hank came out the back door. They then remained in the area to ensure he continued on his way without damaging or entering other homes.
Hank, however, isn’t the only one to inadvertently terrorize human populations. Climate conditions in North America are impacting bears’ food sources, experts say The Independent this summer – forcing them to venture further afield and into neighborhoods.
“Things like drought, which affect bear food,” said John Hechtel, president of the International Bear Research and Management Association.
“It can affect berry production. This can affect salmon returns to some streams…if the water temperature gets too warm or there is not enough water in the stream system to allow a sufficient number of salmon. There are many kinds of interconnected relationships between climate, habitat, and potential food sources.
He added: ‘It can be quite indirect, such as warmer temperatures which in winter allow beetle larvae to expand their range and attack trees which produce food sources for bears. These can be fires that destroy habitats.
Climate and environmental impacts have repercussions for years, experts say. Bears can hibernate in dens for up to seven months of the year, and when they emerge their main purpose is to build up fat reserves for the following winter. Only by maintaining their nutrition can they reproduce, survive and thrive.
“Anytime there’s drought and the berries dry up, cub mortality is high,” said Minnesota biologist Dr. Lynn Rogers, known as the “Jane Goodall of bears.” The Independent.
“And females are unable to sustain their pregnancies, so the effects can last for years after a prolonged drought.”
Disasters such as drought and fires have happened throughout history, but are becoming more intense, more frequent and unpredictable due to the climate crisis – and will remain so for the next 30 or so years, according to the latest UN climate report.
Beyond the middle of the century, these extreme events could become even more severe if humanity does not quickly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases that warm the planet.
In northern Minnesota, Dr Rogers studies black bears through the North American Bear Center, which he founded in 1995 – although the 82-year-old has studied bears for more than half a century.
He has observed firsthand an increase in the number of bears coming to town.
“Last year we had a big drought that dried out the berries, and we had the same this year,” he said. The Independent. “And I’ve never seen so many bears come into local towns and go house to house for trash and birdseed.”
He added: “It used to be believed that when bears came out of the forest in the city, it was just that they were sloth bears that had become habituated…and had their food packaged. But from everything I saw, it was mostly just hunger.