A Montana man had his lower jaw torn off in a gruesome grizzly attack last week in Custer Gallatin National Forest.
The U.S. Forest Service closed the Buck Ridge Yellow Mule area near Big Sky, Montana, because the bear was shot and wounded during the encounter. Officials have so far been unable to locate the bear.
The victim, Big Sky resident Rudy Noorlander, survived the encounter but had to be airlifted from the forest and undergo emergency surgery. He was then flown to University of Utah Hospital where he currently resides in stable condition, according to his daughter, KateLynn Noorlander.
Rudy Noorlander owns Alpine Adventures and had rented ATVs to a group of mule deer hunters. The hunters had shot a deer but weren’t able to locate it, so Noorlander offered to help. While they were looking for the deer, he saw a small adult grizzly and pulled out his revolver. But, according to KateLynn, another, larger grizzly was also in the area, and it attacked Noorlander.
KateLynn says Noorlander’s gun misfired, “making his best choice of defense his fists."
“As the bear lunged the only thing Rudy could do was punch the bear in hopes of slowing it down. Unfortunately it did not, and after the first punch the grizzly was on top of Rudy,” she said.
Noorlander being airlifted out of the forest. (Photo: Gallatin County Sheriff's Office)
The bear scratched the man’s chest, bit his arms and legs, and gave him “what Rudy describes as the most disgusting French kiss of his life,” according to KateLynn. The bear bit off Noorlander’s lower jaw before the other hunters shot at the bear and scared it away.
They called for help, but Noorlander remained on the ground, conscious, for another two hours before Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue (GCSSAR) volunteers were able to land a helicopter and get him out. They transported him to a life flight helicopter, which took him to Bozeman Health Deaconess Regional Medical Center, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.
“My father is the bravest and strongest man I know,” KateLynn said.
One of Noorlander's friends, Bob Stover, told MeatEater that Noorlander will begin reconstructive surgery on his jaw tomorrow and is expected to be in the hospital for two months.
But he remains in good spirits. "He was writing jokes for the nurses Saturday morning, making them laugh," Stover said. "His big request was for the MSU vs SDSU game that night. He is a very good man, who is very tough. Thank God."
Gallatin County Sheriff Dan Springer encouraged hunters to plan for contingencies and always be able to call for help in the backcountry.
September is also Bear Aware Month in Montana, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks is hosting educational events all month throughout the state. They offer a checklist for hunters and anglers to help them stay safe in the backcountry.
KateLynn set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for Noorlander's hospital bills. It had generated over $10,000 as of publication time.
Feature image via Gallatin County Sheriff's Office.