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Big Sky grizzly bear attack survivor Rudy Noorlander is home, shares story of recovery and healing

“I’m ready to get right back to doing my thing—but it has changed me,” said Rudy. “I definitely see God’s hand in my life.”
Posted at 5:32 PM, Nov 14, 2023

After surviving a terrifying near-death experience and an intense medical journey, Rudy Noorlander is home with his loved ones, his daughter Ashley, and his dog, Sully.

“I’m only here by the grace of God,” said Noorlander.

“He’s my rock,” said Ashley Noorlander. “I’m very fortunate and happy that he is still here.”

On Sept. 8, Rudy headed down a trail in Big Sky that he’d been on hundreds of times, joining two clients who had rented equipment from him. They were looking for a deer they shot and wounded.

“My dad was like, ‘Hey, I’ll help y'all come find it,” said Ashley.

Little did Rudy know, he would come quite literally face-to-face with a grizzly bear.

Rudy says the bear came upon him so quickly that he did not have time to deploy bear spray, and his gun misfired.

“In one second, just enough time for me to pull the gun up and fire—and it was on me,” said Rudy.

The grizzly bit off the front of Rudy’s lower jaw, leaving scratches on his chest, as well as bites on his arms and legs.

Ashley still recalls the phone call she got just minutes after Rudy was attacked.

“I never thought I would ever get that phone call,” said Ashley. “The guys go, ‘Well we’re with Rudy, he got attacked by a grizzly bear and he’s in pretty bad shape’,” said Ashley.

During his 5-week stay at University of Utah Health, Rudy underwent a complete jaw reconstruction.

The biggest contributor to his healing journey so far?

“Attitude, support—you know, family, and friends,” said Rudy.

And even the support of strangers.

“It’s just insane how much support he’s gotten,” said Ashley. “It’s phenomenal.”

Rudy has another surgery coming up in March, and his family has set up a GoFundMe campaign to help cover expenses.

 And as soon as he’s able, Rudy says he’s heading right back into the backcountry.

“I’m ready to get right back to doing my thing, but it has changed me,” said Rudy.

“I definitely see God’s hand in my life.”