See the Absolutely Gargantuan Bear Wildlife Experts Just Captured Near Lake Tahoe

Written by Rachael Monson
Updated: August 10, 2023
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When people search the internet for “gargantuan bear,” two results pop up consistently: the giant short-faced bear and “Hank the Tank.” You may be wondering why these results are the most common for this search. Well, the giant short-faced bear is an extinct species of incredibly massive bears, while Hank is an unbelievably huge black bear that got itself into some trouble with the human locals recently. Let’s learn more about both of these enormous bears before checking out the viral photo below!

The Giant Short-Faced Bear

An utterly huge species of bear that used to roam the U.S. and parts of Canada and Mexico, the giant short-faced bear (Arctodus simus) is now extinct among many other massive extinct mammals of North America. Also known as the bulldog bear, these giant creatures existed about 12,000 years ago.


Scientists and archaeologists determined they fed on both plants and meat, similar to today’s bears. Based on the specimens found, suspicions of their body shape include longer legs than the bears we are familiar with. This feature likely allowed them to cover long distances with ease.

Some canine teeth from these bears measured over 2 inches long. Modern-day grizzly bear canines are only about half that length! It is believed that giant short-faced bears reached a height of 11-13 feet when standing on their hind legs. The biggest bear species of our time, the Kodiak bear, stands only 10 feet tall. Some reports argue that the largest males of the extinct species would have been able to look an adult male human right in the eye while on all fours. Researchers calculated that the largest specimen they found weighed about 2,110 pounds. Compared to the average male Kodiak bears at 600-1500 pounds, that’s huge!


The smaller cousin of these gargantuan bears, the lesser short-faced bear (Arctodus pristinus), died out about 300,00 years ago. The genus Arctodus included only these two species. The subfamily, Tremarctinae, originated 12-15 million years ago, according to the North American Bear Center. This estimate comes from DNA evidence. The last of the short-faced bears, the spectacled bear (or Andean short-faced bear), still lives in South America today. A study published in 2016 suggests that the populations of gargantuan bears developed independently in North and South America and are not directly related.

Spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), also known as the Andean bear, Andean short-faced bear, or mountain bear

The last species of short-faced bear, the spectacled bear, is named so for its unique coloration.

©Danica Chang/

Hank the Tank

Hank the Tank is an absolutely gargantuan female black bear (Ursus americanus) captured near Lake Tahoe, California, in August 2023. Locals residents assumed she was a male due to her huge size. Confirmed to have broken into at least 21 homes, she searched for food for herself and her three male cubs. Officials made the decision to address the situation involving the giant bear. After all, a massive momma bear with three cubs in tow is extremely dangerous.

The Search and Capture

The search for the invading enormous bear began when South Lake Tahoe officials received reports of at least 152 different bear-related incidents. All of them blamed a singular adult male bear. The plan was to find the bear and eliminate the threat. However, the outcry of affection for the bear caused officials to reconsider their intentions of killing it, like most other problem bears.

Once the bear was identified, they tracked and sedated her. Renamed Henrietta the Tank, a sanctuary in Colorado graciously offered her a home. They also took in her three cubs with hopes of rehabilitation and eventual return to the wild.

The Take-Away

Henrietta weighed an astonishing 500 pounds, a size usually reserved for males of her species. Many attribute her size and weight to her abundance of food sources from the community she was raiding, Tahoe Keys. The gargantuan bear’s antics actually served her relatives by bringing to light the poor habits of the community that drew her to the area. In fact, the Tahoe Key’s Property Owners’ Association now regularly publishes helpful information about how to keep bears out of the residents’ trash. Hopefully, with no more easy meals, the other bears will steer clear of the area.

Leaving trash and food available to bears encourages them to come into human habitats. This puts the bears in danger in many ways. The food is not good for them. Our processed foods upset their stomachs and prevent them from getting proper nutrition. They end up eating plastic and other terrible debris. Officials often have no choice but to kill the problem bears. Henrietta is lucky she’s alive and found sanctuary. Many others are not.

Is It Normal For Gargantuan Bears to Be in Lake Tahoe?

If a bear sees you and appears surprised or curious, do not run and avoid acting aggressively. Instead, show the bear that you mean no harm by talking softly and calmly as you continue to back away.

©Metassus / CC BY 2.0 – License

The largest of the Sierra carnivores, the Black Bear, is found in and around the Lake Tahoe Basin. Approximately 25,000 to 35,000 Black Bears inhabit California.

These bears come in colors from blond to black, with cinnamon brown being the most common color. They are known for their adaptability and are often seen in various habitats across the state.

Check out the absolutely gargantuan bear below!

A gargantuan 500-pound female black bear captured in California, Henrietta the Tank, is lucky to be alive.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Sketchart/

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About the Author

Rachael Monson is a writer at A-Z-Animals where her primary focus is cats, big and small. She also works as senior veterinary assistant and has been in that field since 2012. A resident of Mississippi, she enjoys spending her off time playing video games with her husband and hanging out with her pets (a Bengal cat named Citrine and Basset Hound/Pomeranian mix dog named Pepsi).

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