BILLINGS — Rudy Noorlander of Big Sky is an avid outdoorsman and Navy veteran who owns and operates Alpine Adventures, a snowmobile and ATV rental company, and whose life changed forever on Sept. 8.
Noorlander was helping customers recover a deer they had previously shot. The group of three set out to search Yellow Mule Trail in Big Sky in Custer Gallatin National Forest for the deer and split up to canvas a larger area, staying within earshot of each other.
That's when Noorlander's life flipped upside down.
"He had one second before the bear was on him, and he shot at the bear and the gun misfired. He had pepper spray with him but he didn’t have time to get it," said Kary Lyman, Noorlander's sister.
The bear was on top of him in a split second, according to Lyman.
"He said it was a 10-foot grizzly. He said he had one second, he fired, and the bear grabbed him by the head and shook him around and he actually bit his lower jaw and picked him up... He started screaming and they (the two other men) hurried and rushed over, and they wanted to shoot at the bear but they were afraid of hitting him. So, they just threw big rocks and started yelling and screaming and finally the bear dropped him and went away," added Lyman.
The grizzly left, but tremendous damage was already done.
"The whole bottom part of his mouth is gone. Jaw, teeth, everything, there’s nothing there," said Lyman.
The bear also punctured both of Norlander's biceps, and he suffered wounds to his chest and head as well.
Noorlander waited with the two men for over an hour until a rescue team arrived.
He was rushed to Bozeman Deaconess Hospital, where he was stabilized and flown to the University of Utah Medical Center.
His recovery is just beginning.
"They put a metal thing into what was left of his cheeks and a metal bar where they’re going to reconstruct his jaw," Lyman added.
Because of the intense nature of the injuries, Lyman said her brother will need to re-learn how to chew, swallow and speak again. Twenty inches of bone from his leg will be used to reconstruct his jaw at the end of September. Lyman added that six months after that procedure, they will implant teeth.
He's expected to remain hospitalized until the end of October.
Right now, Noorlander is communicating with a marker and white board.
Remarkably, Lyman says doctors predict her brother will make a full recovery.
First responders will be talking the 61-year old’s injuries, and his story of survival, for years to come, Lyman said.
"They said he’s going to be used in training and be talked about for years. They said they don't normally see attacks this severe where the victim survives," said Lyman.