GREAT FALLS — Shanun Rammell is lucky to be alive. The 50-year old man from Choteau was attacked by a grizzly bear near his property on Monday, which left him with bruises, scars, stitches and one heck of a story.
It started Monday afternoon, when a neighbor spotted bear tracks near the Rammell property. Residents had been dealing with a bear in the area since October and Rammell wanted to confirm it was still nearby so he could contact Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
“He’s come to my house a couple of different times, my wife and I would haze him away from our house with our truck,” Rammell said. “But he was real close, he was ready to jump over into the corrals where the pigs are. So he's been a real pest.”
Rammell, his wife Jamie, and their 12-year old daughter Leisal walked over to a pond near their home where the neighbor spotted the tracks and spotted them quickly. He explained, "I looked at the tracks and I knew it was him, 'cause I know his tracks. And I just wanted to know if he was still in the area or if it was another bear that came up there to live.”
They were about to head back home when Shanun checked a nearby barn where grain was stored to check if there was any sign that the bear had been there recently. “So I went to the building, I looked in slowly to the right hand side and didn't see no corn in there,” he said. “And so I looked to the left, all of a sudden I hear this growl and he comes flying out of there right off the bat.”
“I didn't stand a chance,” Rammell said. “He came out at me really fast.” Shanun struggled with the bear, grabbing its ears and trying to keep it away from his face and neck, but was soon overpowered. “He knocked me down. And I remember rolling into my belly and he jumped on my back and bit me full force trying to rip off my shoulder. I just laid there quietly then because I couldn't do nothing.”
Jamie, who had returned to the truck with their daughter, acted quickly. “He was throwing Shanun around like a rag-doll,” she said. “So I slammed the truck in reverse and slammed it in drive and gunned it. He stopped and he looked at me dead, straight in my eyes. And he got off Shanun and turned around and got out of there.”
The Rammells believe the bear was scared off by the truck after they had used it to chase him off their property several times in the months prior.
“All I was trying to do is just get away, but he wasn't going to let me get away,” Shanun said. “But I'm pretty sure if she wouldn't have showed up with that truck, he would have sat there and tore my flesh off.” Shanun was in shock. He wasn’t sure how badly he was injured but was losing a lot of blood and had bites and gashes all over hands, arms and torso. He could see his tendons and bones through a wound on his arm.
He filmed a video in the immediate aftermath to document the attack in case he didn’t survive, and then he hopped in his truck with headed toward the Teton Medical Center in Choteau. About halfway there, he pulled over and let Jamie drive the rest of the way.
“I told him we needed to change spots,” she said. “There was blood on the door, blood on the seats and blood on the steering wheel. I called the hospital and they were ready for us when we got there.”
After initial treatment in Choteau, Shanun was flown to Benefis Health System in Great Falls via helicopter. Someone he managed to avoid any broken bones. He received hundreds of stitches and underwent surgery on his wrists and forearms. Most of his wounds were superficial, and will heal but there’s fear that there is tendon damage in his left hand. “I can’t quite stretch my fingers out all the way,” he said.
The Rammells have nine children, and while Jamie is with her husband in Great Falls, friends and church family have stepped up to help.
“I appreciate everybody that's come out to help us,” Shanun said. “They come out to my house, take care of the kids. A lot of people are just gracious and very nice to help people out.”
The attack has put the problem of prairie grizzlies into focus for the family: “That's my fear is, I don't want a bear like that up there around all my children,” Shanun said. “Especially one that’s been hazed away five times now and he just keeps coming back.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, FWP was still trying to locate the bear.