MONTREAL -- A man has been rescued after spending three months in a remote forest during which he survived a bear attack, and wound up emaciated and clinging to life.

Police are sharing the improbable story of 44-year-old Marco Lavoie, an experienced hiker who set off on what was supposed to be a two-month excursion on July 16, 2013.

Police can't say exactly when that bear attack occurred. But it's believed that in mid-August, halfway through his planned trip, the animal attacked his encampment, ate his food, and destroyed his survival gear.

Given all his experience in the deep woods, his loved ones simply assumed when he didn't turn up last month that he'd extended his stay in the Lake Matagami region of northwestern Quebec.

But they became increasingly alarmed in recent weeks and called the provincial police on Oct. 21. Police sent out a helicopter to rescue him.

The helicopter couldn't land. So two police officers dropped down, and one carried Lavoie back up on his shoulders. They brought him to hospital.

Police say he was rescued just in time.

"We believe he might have died in a few more hours -- 24 to 48 hours more," said Sgt. Ronald McInnis, a provincial police spokesman.

"He's in critical condition. He wasn't even able to drink water when we offered him some. He will be on an IV for several weeks.

"He will gradually learn to drink, and then eat, again."

The man had lost much of his body weight and was suffering from hypothermia when he was found: "It's already been snowing (up there) for two or three weeks. The nights are cold," McInnis said.