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Survivor reflects after near-fatal grizzly bear attack in Montana

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Posted at 10:50 AM, Mar 05, 2024

BIG SKY — He has spent most of his life in the woods. He was carrying bear spray and was armed with a pistol. That didn't stop a grizzly bear from attacking Rudy Noorlander while helping bow hunters near Big Sky back in September 2023. I sat down recently with Rudy as he looked back on the attack and his six-month recovery from it.

Rudy says he was helping a man named George and his son try to get an elk during bow season—in bear country. They shot one but couldn't find it, so they asked Rudy to help.

Rudy went in the next day, spooked a bear, and drew his pistol before arriving at the site where George was waiting. Then, as they began their search, he spooked another.

Rudy shared with me what he remembers from the attack:

Next thing I know, he had me by the jaw, he picked me up off the ground, by my jaw, and I could see George running towards me and I said, ‘Help me,’ and then he clamped down, broke my jaw—I got a tooth on this side and a tooth on that side on the bottom; the rest of it’s gone—and at that point, I think he lost grip of me and I fell down. I don’t remember the next few seconds. He stepped on my chest and he was heavy enough and collapsed my chest. And then he bit my leg, and then George and his son were throwing rocks and sticks at him and yelling at him and he finally ran off.

It took that long for the bear to destroy Rudy’s lower jaw; amazingly, he was actually lucky that day in September.

“Doctors said less than an eighth of an inch on one side and even less than that on the other side and I wouldn't be here,” Rudy said, “so I’m only here by the grace of God that he didn't bite down just a little bit more.”

Multiple surgeries, including a 10-hour reconstruction since then, and more to follow. Bites to his arms and legs and a collapsed lung—but it was the jaw that was almost the killer for Rudy.

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“I still have numbness here and there, and I still have some surgeries and some dental work to do. If it wasn’t for this, I would have been out of the hospital and back at it within a week,” he said.

Rudy continues to guide snowmobilers and will again take hunters into that area near Big Sky because that’s what he does: “Something like this happens to you, you can either go up or go down. I don’t choose to go down, so ... I keep on going and you hope for the best."

Big Sky man attacked by a grizzly bear continues recovery

A great attitude, but again, what would you expect from a man who survived a grizzly attack to his face and waited two hours before rescue would arrive?

Some people's bests are just a little bit better than others.