Man survives bear attack
Green Bay man saved by wife at Silver Cliff cabin
Thursday, May 16, 2013 7:00 PM
SILVER CLIFF - Thanks to some quick thinking by his wife, a 74-year-old Green Bay man survived a terrifying attack by a young black bear Wednesday afternoon outside his summer cabin on Finch Lane in the Town of Silver Cliff.
This 125-pound male black bear pulls on a garden hose Wednesday afternoon at the cabin of Gerre and Marie Ninnemann in the Town of Silver Cliff. The bear attacked Gerre, who was able to get away when Marie hit the animal with a gun. A Marinette County Sheriff’s deputy shot and killed the bear. Gerre Ninnemann was treated and released at Bay Area Medical Center. Special to the EagleHerald/Marie Ninnemann
Gerre Ninnemann told the EagleHerald he was just getting ready to go for a walk with his dog Maddy, an 8-year-old yellow Labrador, when the dog started barking at the bear, a male estimated to be about 125 pounds. He said the dog chased the bear around the back of the cabin.
"When I got to the backyard the bear was chasing the dog," Ninnemann said. "I was afraid he would catch my dog and kill it. Normally, you can shout and a bear will just take off. This one left the dog and came after me."
Ninnemann said he ran, but the faster bear caught him and dragged him down from behind.
"I was on all fours and he was chewing and biting me on my neck and head," he said.
Meanwhile, Ninnemann's wife, Marie, was watching the horrific scene unfold from the cabin they have owned for more than 20 years.
"I just felt so helpless," the 71-year-old woman said. "He was laying face down with the bear on top of him."
At one point Ninnemann said he broke free and made it closer to the cabin, but the bear jumped on him again.
Marie Ninnemann, who doesn't know how to load or shoot a gun, got her husband's shotgun and some shells from the basement. She said her thinking was if her husband was able to break free, she would throw the gun to him.
But her husband didn't break free, so she took action.
"I hit the bear with the gun and it was enough to stun it," she said. "He (her husband) was able to break free and we edged our way up the porch. By an act of God we were able to inch to the front door and get inside the cabin."
The ordeal wasn't over. While Marie tended to her husband's wounds, the bear circled the cabin and peered in the doors and windows, looking for a way in. Maddy, the yellow lab, was now safe inside and barking at the bear.
Marie said the bear ignored hummingbird and oriole feeders on the deck and wanted to get inside.
"I was scared," she admits. "I was trying to get all the blood off my husband and keep track of where the bear was."
This went on for nearly 45 minutes until Marinette County Sheriff's Deputy Daniel Beauchamp showed up.
The deputy arrived shortly after 2 p.m., got out of his squad car and waited for the bear to come from the passenger's side, according to the report. When the bear was within sight, Beauchamp shot and killed the animal.
Gerre Ninnemann was treated for bites, cuts and scratches by the Silver Cliff Rescue Squad. He was transported to Bay Area Medical Center where he said emergency room personnel put nine staples in his neck and head to close puncture wounds and they put 14 stitches in his left ear. He had scratches from his beltline up to the back of his head. Marie was treated by rescue workers at the scene.
Ninnemann said he's grateful to survive the attack.
"I feel fortunate and lucky," he said. "l'm thankful my wife had the guts to hit the bear while he was attacking me. She really saved the day for me."
Ninnemann said he's also feeling a little bit mad about the situation.
"I'm angry," he said. "I never should have got myself in such a predicament. I should have got my gun first, but I was worried about my dog. Everything happened so fast."
John Huff, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources area wildlife supervisor for the Peshtigo area, said he believes the bear was likely born last January and possibly was on its own for the first time. He said sows kick males out of the den when they're about a year old.
As for why the bear attacked, Huff said it could be because of porcupine quills found on its face and possibly inside its throat or it could be because the encounter with the dog carried over to a human. Or, it could be for some unknown reason.
"We will never really know what caused the bear to attack," he said. "This is really, really uncommon."
Huff said he's been in Wisconsin since 1983 and this is only the third bear attack he can remember - one involved a bear trying to get inside a tent and a child happened to be inside and the other involved a woman hunter who accidentally got in between a sow and her cub.
"I don't think how bears behave is any different now than it was two days ago," he said. "Bears are big animals and they're wild. They are not predictable and it's best to avoid encounters with bears. It seems to me these folks did what they needed to do. They got away to a safe place and called for help."
Huff said the bear has been sent to Madison where it will be examined for rabies. He said wildlife officials will perform a necropsy, an examination of a dead animal, to determine if it had any diseases or some other issue that may be contributing reasons for the attack.