A weekend hunt turned into a backcountry emergency on Friday, when a man was mauled by a grizzly bear while tracking a deer south of Big Sky, Montana. Custer Gallatin National Forest officials have reason to believe the grizzly was shot and injured in the attack, and they’ve closed the surrounding area to all foot traffic while they search for the bear, a post on their Facebook page reads.
The attack occurred near the Yellow Mule Trails in Custer Gallatin National Forest. Madison County Dispatch received a call from the hunting party at 1:47 p.m. The Gallatin County Sheriff Search and Rescue, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks law enforcement, U.S. Forest Service law enforcement, Life Flight, and Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputies all responded to the scene. The victim was treated on the ground in dense pine forest and then airlifted via helicopter.
GCSSAR reported that the patient was in serious but stable condition at Bozeman Health Deaconess Regional Medical Center, and none of the responding agencies have released the victim’s identity. But a woman who claims to be the victim’s daughter shared a Facebook post with a link to a GoFundMe page for her dad, which detailed the harrowing story.
“On Friday [Sept. 8], my father Rudy Noorlander was helping out a hunting party to find a deer and was attacked by a very large grizzly bear,” KateLynn Davis writes in the post. “He was life flighted off the mountain to Bozeman and stabilized with an initial emergency surgery and then flown to Salt Lake. He is in critical condition but the doctors (and I) are very hopeful.”
Davis organized the fundraiser for Noorlander. On the page, she wrote that her father, who owns ATV and snowmobile rental company Alpine Adventures in Big Sky, had rented out some ATVs to the hunting party in question to help them track a deer. He decided to join the search for the deer and was attacked after finding a different deer—one that two grizzly bears were already on.
“My father is the bravest and strongest man I know,” Davis writes. (She later points out that Noorlander is a Navy veteran.) “After hearing that the hunters killed but were unable to find a deer, Rudy being the Good Samaritan that he is decided to help them search for it. He had tracked a deer but it turns out it was not the deer the hunters had shot. He saw one smaller adult grizzly bear nearby. Instinctively, he pulled out his firearm getting ready just in case the grizzly he saw got closer, but before he could even have time to react, a different 10 foot tall and far more aggressive bear was on him.”
Noorlander’s gun misfired, Davis writes. He reportedly punched the grizzly, but it knocked him to the ground.
“The [grizzly] left a large scratch down his right chest, bit his arms, legs, and to top it all off, gave him as what Rudy describes as the most disgusting french kiss of his life before biting down and tearing off his lower jaw,” Davis writes.
The hunting party reportedly scared the bear away and called emergency responders. By the time Noorlander received treatment, he’d been on the ground fully conscious for two hours, according to Davis. She described the team that responded to him as “amazing.”
“After an initial surgery to stabilize Rudy he was flown to University of Utah Hospital where he currently resides in stable condition,” Davis writes.
The attack occurred less than a week after FWP officials euthanized a 10-year-old female grizzly bear for breaking into an occupied home through a kitchen window and stealing dog food in West Yellowstone, 47 miles south of Big Sky. The sow had a cub in tow during the incident, which happened on the morning of Sept. 2. Genetic analysis and identifying characteristics revealed that the sow and cub were also involved in the death of Amie Adamson, a 48-year-old female runner from Kansas. A hiker discovered Adamson’s body near the Buttermilk Trail in West Yellowstone on the morning of July 22.
Friday’s attack also marks the fourth close encounter between outdoorsmen and grizzly bears in the region in less than a month. The attacking grizzlies were shot and killed in the other three encounters, and all three shootings were deemed self-defense.