Bears are considered apex predators, securely seated at the top of the food chain. Yet, they’re anything but discerning when it comes to a calorically rich meal. Put another way, they’ll pretty much eat anything, from insects and nuts to berries and small and large animals (like deer and elk). We wouldn’t put dumpster diving past them, either. And can you blame them after months of fasting during hibernation?
Although wild animals should always be treated with caution and respect, there’s something about bears that endears them to us. After all, how many other apex predators dominate the plush bedtime toy market? Sure, stuffed shark, tiger, and wolf toys are far from unheard of. But they don’t hold the same cultural weight as a snuggly, open-armed teddy.
But that doesn’t mean the real-life critters can’t still raise a ruckus. Keep reading for a week of weird ursine stories we can bear-ly believe!
Hank the Tank No Longer on the Loose
If you haven’t heard about the saga of “Hank the Tank,” where have you been hibernating? He’s only one of the most famous and beloved serial burglars in Lake Tahoe, California. (Add to that one of the heaviest, tipping the scales at a massive 500 pounds!)
Since February 2022, he’s endeared himself to residents of the Tahoe Keys neighborhood, a posh waterfront community. The bear’s apparent aim? Getting his paws on anything and everything edible.
The result? More than 150 reports of conflict behavior and nearly 30 home break-ins. If you’re familiar with Dateline or any of the myriad true crime stories out there, you know what comes after the allegations. The collection of forensic evidence, more specifically, DNA.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) stepped in for this crucial element of the investigation. But after testing collected samples, authorities were stunned to learn that Hank didn’t act alone! At least two other adult black bears contributed to the crime spree, including a mother with three cubs.
This so-called “Henrietta the Tank” is set to be relocated to a sanctuary in Colorado, and her cubs will be rehabilitated and moved, too. The rescue proved especially timely as one cub showed signs of serious injury from a vehicle collision. Residents have also gotten more proactive about practicing bear-safe food and trash storage, and the neighborhood recently revised rules allowing temporary storage structures like bear boxes.
Delayed Passengers Bear-ly Conceal Their Anger
Things happen. Especially when it comes to the air travel industry. Delays can range from weather-related to mechanically inspired and most things in between. But some excuses still take the cake.
On August 5th, passengers on an Iraqi Airways flight from Baghdad to Dubai got grounded after a bear escaped from a crate in the plane’s cargo hold. Talk about a fur-raising situation!
Aircraft crew and airport authorities transformed into temporary veterinarians to help sedate the escaped critter. And passengers sat in disbelief as the pilot explained via the overhead system the attempted “great escape.”
Fortunately, airport and airline employees were able to sedate the animal and remove it from the flight before it made the trek to Dubai International Airport, the world’s busiest spot for international travel.
Chinese Zoo’s Bears Too Human?
Last but not least, visitors to eastern China’s Hangzhou Zoo are raising a stink about the un-bear-able behavior of one exhibit’s sun bears. Native to Malaysia, sun bears are more diminutive than most of their furry counterparts. Yet, they can still make quite an impression, coming in around the same size as a large dog.
Unfortunately, this impression hasn’t been especially favorable in Hangzhou. The sun bears have spent too much time standing around and even ambulating. This has led to accusations that the bears in the enclosure are actually people dressed in furry costumes!
#Hangzhou Zoo has rejected rumors that some of its bears are people wearing costumes😆. This came after videos of a Malayan sun bear standing on its hind legs — and looking uncannily like human — went viral on social media, triggering widespread speculation. [📷/Tang FangXiao] pic.twitter.com/8pKYbnZO3w
— Hangzhoufeel (@hangzhoufeel) August 7, 2023
To assuage the rumors, zoo officials have added a new sign to the exhibit. It reads, “Some people think I stand like a person. It seems you don’t understand me very well.” But not everyone’s buying this story.
Buttressing suspicions are linkages in the recent past to Chinese zoos accused of painting donkeys to pass off as zebras and coloring the fur of canines to make them look like wolves. For anyone who remembers the story of Pedals, the ambulating bear, you know that bears can look an awful lot like humans when cruising on their hind legs.
For those who can’t get enough of bears, we recommend visiting our Ripley’s location in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Located in the heart of Smokey Mountain country, few sights are more iconic than ursines, and you’ll find statue versions of cubs on the outer façade of this location. Finally, don’t forget to check out these roly-poly grizzlies heavy on cuteness factor.
By Engrid Barnett, contributor for Ripleys.com