How Jeremy Evans overcame a near-death encounter with a grizzly sow is a true testament to the unleashed power of the human spirit and his deep commitment to his family.
Just over five years ago, the Calgary outdoorsman came between a sow and one of her cubs while scouting for sheep the day before the hunting season opened. He suffered massive injuries from multiple attacks that leave you wondering how he possibly could have survived.
His scalp and face were destroyed, an eye and jaw were left dangling down, tendons on one leg had been fully severed and his hands were extensively damaged from fighting the sow.
Yet, somehow he found the resolve to stumble and crawled back to his vehicle parked over 12 km away, then drove 22 km to the outback lodge at Panther River.
"I never thought I was ever going to make it," says Evans. "My whole object was to get further down the trail to an area where people are going to find my body quicker so my wife wouldn't have to worry and wonder what happened. I was only on a four-day sheep hunt, and this was the first morning. I was back where very few people go."
"It was very close to being fatal," says Evans. "I actually wasn't supposed to make it past the first night in the hospital, and I definitely didn't think I'd make it out of there from the attack."
Now 37, he co-authored a book with Crosbie Cotton, entitled "Mauled: Lessons Learned from a Grizzly Bear Attack" that tells the tale and the life lessons he learned along the way. He was a guest speaker at the annual fundraising dinner of the Grand Valley Safari Club (GVSC) on Jan. 27 and a crowd of 350 hushed when he took to the stage.
It all started quite innocently on August 24, 2017, for the man, then 32, who is a lifelong hunter and angler whose second home is the outdoors. As he does every hunting season, Evans was laying his groundwork for the hunting season ahead.
"I had my bicycle set up and I had my elbows on the handlebars watching some sheep and when I brought the binoculars down I noticed a little brown thing run in front of me and I knew right away what it was; a grizzly cub. I was reaching into my backpack to grab my bear spray when I heard a noise over my right shoulder, and there was mama, less than 100 feet away on a full charge."
About the first 60 pages of the book are about the mauling and his struggle to seek help. The rest is about his recovery, including input from his doctor and game warden, and his wife's journal entry.
It contains a selection of photographs, some graphically displaying the extent of his injuries, much more so than the one above. Others capture his recovery and the area where the mauling took place.
Also included are the two notes he sent along the way: one apologizing for leaving a mess at an outfitter's camp when he was searching for a phone; the other asking whoever finds him to tell his wife Joyce he loves her. Both included his name and phone number.
"The theme of the book is more to share the life lessons learned along the way," explains Evans. "I don't need to abandon the outdoor life because of something tragic, family comes first, and asking for psychiatric help is not a sign of weakness, it's actually a strength. I struggle with PTSD, and if wasn't for their support, I probably wouldn't be here today."
Through it all, he has held no animosity towards the bear responsible, explaining the sow was only doing what the best parents do; protect their young.
Some may know him better as the Grizzly Dude, a nickname given to him by a nine-year-old boy, the first person who saw him completely degloved.
"He saw me all fully degloved and my whole face taken off and he called me the Grizzly Dude. He wrote a little newspaper article about me in his school paper, and the Grizzly Dude just struck."
Preparing to promote the release of the book, Evans created a Grizzly Dude logo and was encouraged by fellow workers to produce t-shirts. He added the catchline "You can bear it."
"I got the t-shirts made as I wouldn't say as a joke, but kind of, and ordered a bunch of them."
He brings t-shirts with him to his public appearances and says some of the proceeds for their sale, and that of other merchandise will be donated to PTSD research.
"I want to be able to put money towards PTSD research to help other people that have been in similar traumatic situations in the woods."
Cochrane was his fifth book signing appearance and he has more planned.
The book is in its third print and over 7,500 have been sold. During the GVSC event, he sold and autographed over 150 books.
It's widely available in bookstores, sporting goods shops, and through the publisher, Rocky Mountain Books.