EAGLE RIVER - After a long night shift, DNR Conservation Warden Supervisor Dave Walz answered his phone with some anxiety early Wednesday morning.
"Oh, phone ringing at 1, 2 in the morning, this can't be good," Walz said.
That anxiety turned to excitement.
"They said they had a homeowner with a bear in a basement," Walz said.
A bear cub, to be exact. Vilas County dispatchers sent Walz to Steve Sickler's home just north of Eagle River. Sickler is in the process of adding on a sun room with a poured concrete basement.
"[My wife] woke me up and said, 'Steven, there's a bear in the addition basement, and I said, 'What? Are you kidding me?" Sickler said.
Sickler wasn't available until past deadline to talk to Newswatch 12 in person on Friday, but he explained over the phone, his dogs woke the family around 1 a.m., but didn't want to go outside. That's when he heard the cub.
Sickler and his wife stayed inside, safe from the mother bear, and waited for Walz to arrive.
"You just can't trust what they're going to do," Sickler said of fully grown mother bears.
Sickler suggested Walz use his 10-foot aluminum ladder. They slid it down the 8-foot-high wall, and watched the cub figure out how to go up it just moments after Walz got to the site.
"Less than five minutes," Walz recalled. "Yup. That's the quickest and easiest response I think I've ever had."
The cub easily climbed the ladder and joined his family in the woods. It was a simple solution, but one the DNR is thankful ended safely for everyone.
"If there's one thing that's predictable, it's wild animals are unpredictable," Walz said.
Walz's smartphone video got plenty of attention, too. First shared on the DNR's YouTube page, it spread to TV stations in Green Bay to Indianapolis to Cincinnatti, spreading footage from a night Seve Sickler will never forget.
"This is like a one-in-a-million type thing you'll ever see... I don't have a doubt in my mind that we will remember this all the rest of our lives," Sickler said.
Walz says sicker did exactly the right thing given the circumstances: stay inside and call police or the DNR.