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‘he’s going to be like Rambo’


As he recovers from extensive jaw and dental reconstruction surgery, Montana grizzly bear attack survivor Rudy Noorlander has no regrets surrounding his life-changing run-in with the beast. 

“Sure, there are a few things I could’ve done that would’ve changed the outcome,” Noorlander told Fox News Digital in his own words this past week. 

Just three months earlier, speech was possible but painful for the grandfather-of-two, who wrote out responses to reporters on a white board at a University of Utah Health post-surgery press conference.

“Maybe if I took a step to the right, I could’ve been behind a tree and maybe would’ve been able to get more than one shot off… A second gun – maybe I’ll go out with a second gun next time.”

“He’s going to be like Rambo out there,” laughed daughter Ashley Noorlander.

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Rudy Noorlander, 61, with his grandkids Abby and Junior

Rudy Noorlander, 61, is pictured with his grandkids Abby, 10, and Junior, 5, this Thanksgiving at his home in Big Sky, Montana. Noorlander’s jaw was reconstructed in a 10-hour operation by doctors at University of Utah Health after he was attacked by a bear on Sept. 8. (Ashley Noorlander)

Noorlander, 61, met with a nine-foot-tall bear – and shared what he calls the “most disgusting French kiss of his life” with the animal – while helping a father and son find a shot deer in Custer Gallatin National Forest on Sept. 8. 

The bear practically materialized in front of him, overtaking him so quickly that he was unable to deploy his bear spray and misfired his weapon. He attempted to lash out at the giant with his hands – and in response, the animal grabbed onto the lower half of his face and wouldn’t let go. 

Although he’s saving many of the details of his encounter for an upcoming book, he told Fox News Digital that the animal’s breath was the “most rancid thing he ever smelled before.” 

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Noorlander is pictured in an undated picture with a friend before his near-death encounter. (Ashley Noorlander)

“The actual incident I don’t remember a whole lot,” Noorlander said. “I remember pointing the gun at him, pulling the trigger – it misfired. He had me up in the air. He bit down and I yelled ‘help me!’” 

When the animal bit down harder, Noorlander said, he fell out of its grip. At some point, doctors later told him, the bear left scratches on his chest and bite marks on his arms and legs. 

“I don’t remember any of the other injuries… the next thing I remember is him running away through the trees.”

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rescue crew helping injured hunter

Rescue crews are pictured attending to Noorlander near Yellow Mule Trail inside the Custer Gallatin National Forest. He was airlifted to a hospital in Bozeman, Montana where he was stabilized. (Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue )

The aftermath, he said, must have been “pretty traumatic” for the father and son who ran to his aid. But Noorlander is thankful that he was the target of the attack rather than the hunting duo or a group of older hikers he’d spotted earlier on the trail. 

“If I hadn’t gone out, the bear would have attacked [the] father,” Noorlander said. “He had a gun, but his son only had pepper spray. And those hikers, they were older than me. I don’t even know if they had bear spray – he could have killed all four of them.”  

Park officials were never able to locate the bear after the attack, Noorlander said, but they guessed that the animal was protecting a nearby kill. 

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Rudy Noorlander in the hospital

Noorlander is pictured soon after the attack at University of Utah Health Hospital, where he stayed between Sept. 8 and Oct. 16. Since his hospitalization, his ability to speak has improved significantly.  (Ashley Noorlander)

“We will not go looking for the bear,” Ashley Noorlander laughed when her father suggested they search for the animal on his snowmobile. 

The huge grizzly in question “wasn’t even the biggest one” of the many Noorlander has encountered during his tenure in the Montana wilderness. 

He fondly recalled scaring a larger bear away with thrown rocks in 1988 after it lingered around his home for two weeks and all other methods failed. The last straw, he said, was when he found the persistent bear “sitting at my table eating my loaf of bread.” 

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Rudy and Ashley Noorlander

Rudy Noorlander and his daughter Ashley met Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte on Nov. 21, after the outdoorsman’s attack and recovery made national news. (Ashley Noorlander)

Noorlander refuses to be deterred from his beloved wilderness, he said, and is eager to get back outdoors. He recently took his first ride on a snowmobile since the attack, he said, and lamented that there hasn’t been much snow this season. 

“He is the most positive person I have ever met – he’s a little crazy, though,” Ashley said fondly. “He is phenomenal – I would’ve died on that mountain for sure… I would’ve been toast, but he’s got the will to live and is the biggest fighter I know.” 

For now, Noorlander misses some of the things he once took for granted – like eating, swallowing, speaking clearly, brushing his teeth and not having a perpetually dry tongue. 

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Rudy Noorlander

Noorlander is pictured outside his home in Bozeman after the attack, holding a vase painted by a neighbor. Through his long hospitalization, he said, he missed his beloved dog Sully. (Ashley Noorlander)

The hair on his newly-constructed chin – made from his fibula and tissue taken from his forearm – is sparse and “just doesn’t look right.” 

But even so, he told Fox News Digital, he can “only see good things from here on out,” and believes that the terrifying encounter was all part of God’s plan. 

“I have my business,” the Montana native said of Alpine Adventures, his snowmobile rental shop in Big Sky. “I have my family. [The attack] helped me grow closer to God, helped me resolve some issues. All in all… you can either go up or go down, and I choose to be up.” 

Rudy Noorlander with his granddaughter

Noorlander is pictured with his granddaughter Abby 10 years ago. Ashley told Fox News Digital her father was “an inspiration” and “somebody that I look up to [and] my kids look up to.” (Ashley Noorlander)

“I know he’s got a plan for me – there’s a reason he kept me here,” Noorlander continued. “I personally believe that the rest of my life is planned out because of this – Alpine Adventures has me [during the week] and I plan on doing church devotionals, inspirational talks through the church.” 
 
Cole Hauser of hit Western TV series Yellowstone could play him in a film about his experience, he joked – among potential titles could be “Bears Gone Wild” or “The Worst Kiss in History.” 

Rudy Noorlander

Noorlander is pictured enjoying a popsicle on his way to meet Montana Gov. Gianforte. Although he misses eating normally – telling Fox News Digital that “Thanksgiving through a tube isn’t much fun” – he is expected to fully regain his ability to eat.  (Ashley Noorlander)

With his next surgery scheduled for March – when, hopefully, he will get the green light to begin eating solids – Noorlander said he “appreciated all the support” from his community and all over the world. 

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“And don’t fight any bears unless you got me with you,” the fearless outdoorsman said in parting. 



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