Hurley, Wisconsin, welcomes home missing eight-year-old boy

Following Nante Niemi’s disappearance, experts recommend parents talk to their children about how to stay safe while camping
Lost in the woods for 48 hours, rescuers say 8-year-old Nante Niemi aided in his own rescue... and we can learn from him
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 9:12 PM CDT
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IRON COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - An 8-year-old Wisconsin boy found after 48 hours in the Michigan wilderness is gaining national attention.

Rescuers found Nante Niemi Monday afternoon after the boy lost his way returning to his family’s campsite in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. The second-grader from Hurley, Wisconsin, surprised rescuers with how he was able to survive in the wilderness with overnight temperatures in the 40s, and rescuers say he aided in his own rescue.

He didn’t drink water because he knew he could get sick. Instead, he had a couple of handfuls of snow.

He also said he purposefully stomped his boots in any mud and snow so rescuers could see his tracks.

Dan Skrypczak, camping director for the Scouts Bay-Lakes Council, says being prepared, making sure people know where you’re going, and always hiking with a buddy are the three things everyone young and old should know before camping.

He says the biggest risk that you have out in the woods is yourself -- and when people get lost, their natural instinct is to panic.

“Prepare yourself that, yep, that will happen eventually,” Skrypczak said. “And when it does, you’re not going to freak out. And if you can do that, you’re much more likely to make good choices that will help you be, you know, help those who are looking for you find you faster, and help keep yourself safe.”

Skrypczak says he was impressed with Nante’s survival skills and knows a lot of 8-year-olds would not have done what he did.

Following the rescue of a boy who was lost in Michigan’s wilderness for 48 hours, now is a good time to sit down with your children to go over tips on how to stay safe while camping so they too can get home safely.

What Nante did by making muddy footprints in the snow showed he was trying to make himself more visible to those who were searching for him.

Skrypczak says if you’re going to take young children camping in a wilderness area such as the Porcupine Mountains, make sure they are wearing a whistle and brightly colored clothing and have a compass on them.

If you’re on a trail, he suggests staying on it and not wandering off.

Another risk you have out in the woods is hypothermia, which Nante fought off by covering himself in leaves and branches to stay warm.

Skrypczak mentioned another way to use branches is to help people find you.

“They don’t have to be big ones, but by breaking branches at waist level, where typically that doesn’t happen naturally,” Skrypczak said.

Skrypczak and experts agree that if you’re lost in the woods and nowhere near a trail, it’s better to stay put, or take higher ground where you can be seen, and make lots of noise.

Once Niemi was confirmed to be OK, Hurley Elementary School principal Steve Lombardo said a mix of excitement and joy filled the halls.

”We made a school-wide announcement. Being a pre-K through 12 building we had everyone in one area,” Lombardo said. “We announced that over the P.A. and it was an uproar of cheers, a lot of tears of joy for staff and students and a lot of happiness, so it was a very special time.”

Jake Allen, owner of Jake’s Tree Removal in Marinesco, was a member of the search party. He, Matthew Tingstad, Colin Gauthier, and Eli Talsma, amongst others, volunteered their time to find Niemi.

“We spread the 12 men out, about 20 yards a piece, and started going slow; slowly, slowly working our way toward Matt’s GPS coordinate he gave us the day before. I stayed in the middle just kind of shooting in a straight line with most of the guys on either side and as we started making our way, we started hitting tracks,” Allen explained.

Jake Allen drew a map of the area the search party covered.
Jake Allen drew a map of the area the search party covered.(WLUC)

Allen said they found Niemi 320 yards from Tingstad’s previous coordinates.

He explained relief washed over the group after they found the 8-year-old.

“Obviously we found the best-case scenario,” Allen said. “We were all just kind of taking it as it was, high-fiving, and happy that the plan came together.”