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The Bear Man: A Survivor’s Tale Brings Hope and New Life

Written by Terry DeBoer on . Posted in Local

Bear Man close upSurvivor of a grizzly bear attack, Jim VanSteenhouse is also known as “The Bear Man”It's difficult for Jim VanSteenhouse to recall many details from the hours following a grizzly bear attack he endured in the Canadian wilderness.
But he remembers losing a lot of blood.

"There never was a point while I was choppered to base camp and then to the nursing station that I didn't feel blood dripping out of me," said the big game hunter from his Houston area home.

"My clothes were shredded and (the grizzly) tore my head up pretty good."

The attack came seven years ago on one of the mossy ridges stretching down from the Mackenzie Mountain range in the remote Northwest Territories. He and a guide were there bow-hunting moose, and were seated next to each other when a huge grizzly came up behind the hunter's right shoulder "at 4 o'clock."

When the bear lunged he remembers muttering, "Lord, here I come."

Details on how he survived the onslaught might best be told by the hunter himself (although you'll find a couple of clues later in this article). VanSteenhouse, now known as "The Bear Man," is in full time ministry sharing his testimonial story of hope but also urging listeners to get their life priorities in order.

He visits west Michigan Fri. Jan. 28 for a presentation at Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Ada (see details below).


"The Bear Man," is a Unionville, MI raised on a family farm which groomed his love of the great outdoors and hunting challenges.

Even after a career change which led him to Texas, he never lost his passion for hunting. "It recharges my batteries," he often says.

After the vicious grizzly attack, he was just happy to be alive. In those first moments following his rescue, he recalls an experience of the Holy Spirit. "But I just figured it was all over and I never really told anyone about it."

For several months he was homebound dealing with broken bones and dozens of staples in his head and stitches everywhere else. He had several deep wounds which required a "wound vac" to drain fluid and to eliminate infection.

Jim credits his eventual Bear Man ministry to his wife, Elizabeth.

After weeks at home, she said it was time for him to join her for worship at their Houston area church.

"I told her I wasn't interested. I looked like Frankenstein with all the casts and staples and things," VanSteenhouse recalled. "But she said we were going, and that was that."

In the church hallway a man stopped them and asked if Jim was "the guy who was attacked by a grizzly." The man asked if Jim would share his story at a church men's group meeting.

Jim's wife quickly volunteered him, over his objections.

"I had no clue what I was actually gonna talk about," he said.

He had given his life to Christ as a child and his mom and stepdad had regularly brought him to church. But now as an adult after staring death in the face Jim began to realize the importance – and seriousness – of his now-renewed faith.

An area pastor helped him prepare, and even brought friends along to the presentation. Jim figured it was a one and done event.

But soon another church called and asked him to come, and then another, launching a chain reaction of requests. "The more they'd call the more I brought people around me to help," he said of his developing zeal for his newer mission. "I caught on fire myself seeing people respond."

Noting the growing amount of spiritual impact his story was receiving, he stepped away from his day job more than a year ago and now does his Bear Man ministries full time.


When in front of audiences he uses photos in a power point to help bring listeners alongside him on that mountain. He wants them to be participants, not just observers. "I tell them we're going on a journey together," he said. "So every detail....getting out there, the attack... it makes it real and it resonates with people."

A few items which helped him survive the near fatal encounter: a .44 lever-action rifle, a satellite phone and a brave guide/companion. And an overseeing God who had a greater plan.

Uncovering life's purpose found in Christ is a central tenet of Bear Man's outreach. He also introduces audiences to an African ministry of indigenous pastors he partners with, roughwaters.org.

And he hasn't stopped hunting. "It's like riding a bike, you get back on it," he said. "(The attack) was an unfortunate circumstance that turned out to be fortunate."


"The Bear Man;" a presentation featuring big game hunter Jim VanSteenhouse, 7pm Fri. Jan 28 at Redeemer Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 8605 Fulton St. East, Ada. Recommended for middle school age students and older. Preceded by a "beast feast" dinner at 6pm. Tickets required, but the dinner and presentation are free. To reserve a spot visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bear-man-testimony-at-redeemer-opc-tickets-215292554827

Author Information
Terry DeBoer
Author: Terry DeBoer
Terry is a journalist/feature writer for newspapers, magazines and websites, with a background in radio broadcasting. His usual beat is arts and entertainment, specializing in Christian/gospel music. A married father of two, he is based in Grand Rapids, Michigan Contributing Writer: West Michigan Christian News August 2011 – Present Feature writer: -Mlive.com (website and various newspapers) 1988– 2016 -Spotlight New Christian Music Magazine 1997-2008 -Church News Editor, Church Herald Magazine 2004-2009

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