Man attacked by a bear southeast of Choteau

Posted at 8:14 AM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-29 20:09:29-04

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. "I looked at the tracks and I knew it was him,” Shanun said. “Cause I know his tracks. And I just want 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. He grabbed its ears did his best to keep it was 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.

(1st REPORT, JULY 28) Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is leading an investigation into a grizzly bear attack on a man that happened southeast of Choteau in rural Teton County on Monday night. The man sustained injuries to the arm, hand and back

Julie Brantley, a family friend of the victim, gave an account of what happened, saying that a neighbor had told Shanun Rammell (the victim) and his wife that there were reports of a bear being spotted in the area. The Rammells investigated their property before venturing a few miles North to see if the reports were true.

According to Brantley, the Rammells and their daughter were ready to leave and head home when Shanun decided to open the door of a barn near an abandoned farm site and check inside. Jamie Rammell, Shanun's wife, said that they did not go looking for the bear; they were looking at the tracks and Shanun looked in the barn to see if there was grain inside "because farmers dump grain sometimes."

According to Brantley, the bear was just inside the door, off to the side, and Shanun and the bear startled startled each other. Brantley said, “It immediately grabbed Shanun by, I think, his shoulder and was throwing him around in the air, but he also had a nice gash in his arm.”

Shanun began the roughly 20-minute drive to the Benefis Teton Medical Center in Choteau before his wife decided it would be best if she took over the driving. Brantley says the two arrived at the hospital at about 7 p.m. Shanun was then flown by Mercy Flight to Benefis Health System in Great Falls not long after that.

The family did provide pictures of the resulting injuries from the incident, and Brantley expected that Shanun might be dismissed from the hospital sometime Tuesday, but couldn’t say for sure. Based on Brantley’s account, Rammell’s injuries are not expected to be life-threatening.

Here is the information released by FWP on Tuesday evening:

  • The person had been looking for a bear after hearing a report of tracks in the area. The bear was believed to be a sub-adult and had been in an old barn eating discarded grain. The incident occurred at an abandoned farm site away from residences.
  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists and wardens were on scene last night and attempts to find or trap the bear overnight were unsuccessful. FWP staff were back in the area this morning searching for the bear. With the generous assistance from Two Bear Air, FWP searched the greater area with a helicopter. However, no bears were located, which isn’t surprising as bears will often flee an area after an encounter such as this. FWP will continue monitoring the situation and trapping efforts.
  • The condition of the person involved in the attack is stable with injuries to the arm, hand and back. Landowners who see bears or bear sign should notify FWP immediately. All people in grizzly bear country should carry bear spray and avoid surprising grizzly bears at close range.

We will update you if we get more information.