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Montana man says he’s ready for ‘round 2’ now he’s returning home after grizzly bear attack

Despite having his jaw mauled by a grizzly bear five weeks ago, Rudy Noorlander is now focusing on telling his own story - as well as getting the root beer float he’s been craving

Amelia Neath
Monday 16 October 2023 17:02 BST
Man returns home after surviving grizzly bear attack

A Montana man whose jaw and lower lip were bit off by a grizzly bear in a terrifying attack is now set to return home after an intense five weeks in a Utah hospital.

“I will win Round 2,” Rudy Noorlander wrote on a whiteboard at a press conference on Friday, showing that despite the tremendous trauma he has endured, he still has managed to retain his sense of humour.

Mr Noorlander responded to most questions by writing on a whiteboard. While he can speak briefly, it still hurts “a little,” he said.

Mr Noorlander ended up at the University of Utah hospital over a month ago after he was assisting two people looking for a deer they had shot and wounded near the Yellow Mule Trail on 8 September, south of the town of Big Sky in Montana, when a huge grizzly bear came at him.

The bear launched itself at him so quickly, that Mr Noorlander was unable to deploy bear spray. His gun also misfired during the incident.

The other hunters were able to scare the bear away and call 911, his family said at the conference, according to ABC.

The US Forest Service said it closed the area around the Buck Ridge and Yellow Mule after the incident, as it searched for the bear, which may have been shot.

It was several excruciating hours before Mr Noorlander was airlifted from the area and taken to a hospital in Bozeman, where a tracheotomy was performed for him to be fitted with an external tube to help him breathe.

He was then flown to a hospital in Utah, where 20 days after his horrifying attack, Mr Noorlander endured a 10-hour surgery for his jaw and lower lip to be reconstructed on 28 September.

Surgeons used a portion of his lower leg bone and transplanted skin and was also fitted with new dental implants, Dr Hilary McCrary, the wounded man’s surgeon, said at the conference.

His daughters sat side by side their father, reading out statements on his behalf (Megan Nielsen/The Deseret News/AP)

Mr Noorlander’s daughters, Ashley Noorlander and Katelynn Davis, were also at the conference with their father, sitting on either side of him.

Ms Davis read out a statement on behalf of her father, thanking people for their support, but also noting the first plans he has when he finally returns home.

“I truly feel blessed to be surrounded by such amazing people,” Ms Davis said, reading the statement. “I 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.”

Mr Noorlander’s jaw had to be reconstructed after the bear mauled it off (Associated Press)

What was most astonishing to his friends, family and the staff at the hospital was how determined Mr Noorlander was to get through his recovery, despite the short amount of time that had elapsed since his attack.

“The first thing that was so incredible to watch was how enthusiastic Rudy was, even after being just attacked by a grizzly bear, he was very adamant he was going to fight this thing,” Ms McCrary recalled, saying Mr Noorlander had this attitude even as he was hooked up to a ventilator and had a chest tube in hospital.

“Only by the hands of God am I here,” Noorlander wrote when one person asked why he wanted to share his story. “Believe it or not, I believe that this attack was an answer to my prayers and that potentially it could help somebody else going through something similar.”

He also added he was glad he was attacked rather than the four older hikers he encountered on the trail the very same day.

Parts of his leg was used in the reconstruction of his jaw and lower lip (Associated Press)

Mr Noorlander will have to return to hospital for some minor operations, but the bulk of his reconstructive surgeries are over and he is expected to make a full recovery.

He still has a small wound under his chin that will need to heal and doctors are working on getting him to the stage of eating without risk of infection, Ms McCrary said.

Eventually, he will also work with a speech therapist as well.

The attack took place around 55 miles north of Yellowstone National Park, where Mr Noorlander makes a living renting out all-terrain vehicles and snowmobiles.

At the conference, he said he didn’t want to take questions as he wanted to tell the story himself and write a book and naturally, have actor Cole Hauser from the “Yellowstone” television series play him in the movie adaptation.

Mr Noorlander was expected to return home today from the hospital and told the conference on his whiteboard he is now focused on getting his hands on a root beer float, reuniting with his Yorkshire terrier Sully and even potentially attending a Montana Grizzlies game against his team Montana State Bobcats next month.

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