Weeks after he lost his lower jaw in a grizzly attack, veteran headed home to dog and root beer floats

A little more than 50 years since his first encounter with a bear, a Navy veteran survived his second grizzly attack in Big Sky’s Yellow Mule Trail after a 10-foot-tall beast ripped off his lower jaw.

Rudy Noorlander, 61, was only 10 when his first scuffle with a bear left him with a mangled leg. The second attack, which happened early September, required five weeks in hospital and a “complete jaw reconstruction.”

Describing the attack as “the most disgusting French kiss of his life” the Montana man was in good spirits as he spoke with the public on October 13, using a white board to pen his responses.

Now on his way home, Noorlander says he’s most excited to have a root beer float and see his Yorkshire terrier Sully.

On September 6, Rudy Noorlander answered the calls of a hunting party who were unable to locate a deer they shot. The hunters were using the ATVs they had earlier rented from Noorlander’s company, Alpine Adventures in Big Sky, Montana.

The man’s daughter KateLynn Noorlander-Davis explains that “Rudy, being the Good Samaritan” decided to help the party search for the missing deer, which he tracked, quickly learning “it was not the deer the hunters had shot.”

Noorlander spotted one smaller adult grizzly bear, and instinctively he pulled out his firearm, hoping to frighten the bear from the area.

But things didn’t go as planned.


Grizzly attack

Detailing the attack on the GoFundMe created to assist her father’s recovery, KateLynn writes that Noorlander encountered a 10-foot-tall grizzly bear after trying to scare away a smaller adult bear. After his gun misfired, the second bear, which was “far more aggressive” than the first, “lunged” at him, according to the post.

KateLynn said that her father then tried to hit the bear with his fists, “in hopes of slowing it down,” but the animal overpowered the 61-year-old veteran. 

The attack happened south of Big Sky, a popular resort area about 55 miles (90 kilometers) north of Yellowstone National Park.

While waiting two hours for emergency to arrive via helicopter, “the hunters were there to scare the bear away” and KateLynn said her father was “still fully conscious.”

He was first flown to the hospital in Bozeman, where he had a tracheostomy to create an airway through his trachea, and then he was taken to University of Utah Health.

The veteran suffered multiple wounds from the attack, including “a large scratch down his right chest,” and bites to his limbs. His lower jaw was ripped off following what he later described as “the most disgusting French kiss of his life.”

Spending five weeks at University of Utah Health, he had three surgeries, including a “complete jaw reconstruction.”

“Rudy’s accident has attracted interest and well-wishes from around the world,” the research and academic hospital shares in an October 13 Live Facebook post. “Through perseverance and positivity, he is now on the road to recovery and will soon head back home to family and his dog, Sully, in Montana. Rudy, his daughters, and his care team will share more details about the attack, his healing journey, and his plans for the future.”

Noorlander, using a personal whiteboard to write his thoughts, joined his daughters KateLynn and Ashley, along with his surgeon Dr. Hilary McCrary, to speak in the Live Facebook event at The Salt Lake City-based health center.

“Only by the hands of God am I here,” he wrote, his daughter Ashley dabbing his chin with a tissue. “I’ve had a lot of inspirations and I felt the need to share my story with others and, believe it or not, I believe that this attack was an answer to my prayers and that it could potentially help somebody else going through something similar.”

Katelynn read a statement written by her father, who approached his gratitude with praise and humor.

“I truly feel blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people also want to say that the first root beer float is going to taste so amazing and soon I’m going to be a free-range chicken and won’t be hooked up to anything,” KateLynn said, reading her father’s statement, which included his excitement to see his dog Sully.

Without a doubt, Noorlander isn’t wanting to share another kiss with a grizzly of any size, but he is looking forward to returning to the outdoors.

“My first bear encounter was when I was ten,” he wrote, noting that he has a mangled left knee from that experience. “I will win round two.”

Unfortunately we have no information on what happened to the bear who might have been shot.

Rudy Noorlander is such a great example of resilience, and we look forward to following his recovery!

Please share this story and let’s send healing thoughts to the man win his journey of recovery!

If you enjoyed reading this story, you’ll probably like the one on the cop who saved the life of a sick bear cub!