Woodburn 'Man vs. Bear'
When the camera is on him, Steve Taylor delivers some necessary gusto-infused bravado.
That's one of the first things viewers will see in his episode of the Discovery Channel's "Man vs. Bear" series, scheduled to launch on Wednesday, Dec. 4.
Taylor, 63, of Woodburn is the oldest competitor on the show, which pits humans against grizzly bears in contests of strength, speed, endurance and eating.
"At 63 years old, I'm thrilled to death to still be relevant," Taylor tells viewers. "This is probably the most-difficult, biggest challenge of my life. I'm going to go at it with a fervor that I do with everything else. And I'm ready to go up against this bear. I'm ready to give him what I've got."
Later off camera, Taylor, who was a Master's Physique Champion at age 60, admitted that his close proximity with a ¾ ton omnivore was a humbling experience.
"There were some embarrassing moments for me," Taylor said of filming the show. "When you are stacked up against a 9-foot, 1,400-pound grizzly bear, you can feel pretty inadequate…I discovered that bears can make you rather humble."
"Man vs. Bear" is filmed at wildlife sanctuary Bear Mountain, Utah. The show actually stars three grizzly bears – Bart, Honey Bump and Tank. The former two were orphaned as cubs, discovered by an Alaskan state trooper, then adopted by caretakers Doug and Lynne Seus.
The Seuses also rescued Tank and have cared for all three for two decades on the sprawling expanse of protected land.
The show is centered on a handful of challenges that are natural to bears in the wild; pushing, pulling, running and climbing. There is some tug-o-war, rolling a massive log, obstacle courses, climbing and eating.
"The bears really seem like they're having a lot of fun," Taylor said.
Discovery Channel's Vice President of Communications Phil Zimmerman noted that each episode includes five distinct challenges inspired by what bears do naturally in the wild, pushing the contestants to their absolute limits.
The top two competitors come face-to-face (in a cage) with Bart in the final round; Bart stands 8 feet 6 inches tall and weighs 1,400 pounds. The human competitor who earns the most points of the day is named champion.
Sports announcer Brandon Tierney and wildlife expert Casey Anderson provide the color commentary as each event progresses through the episodes.
Discovery has fun with series and pre-showing hype: "Grizzlies are extremely clever and lightning fast animals. Do these humans stand a chance? And will the humans be able to prove that they're the ultimate predators…or simply prey?"
Taylor was born in Salem, grew up as a youngster in Amity before his family moved to Sherwood, where he graduated high school in 1974. He's a former Portland State University football player and a current dedicated body builder, who works out at Woodburn's Burn Fitness (formerly Everybody's) located in the shopping center off 99E and Newberg Highway.
The former Wilsonville resident moved to Woodburn six years ago as his wife, Janice Taylor, works in south Salem.
"We absolutely love living here," Steve Taylor said of their community of choice.
His body-building goals began to develop in earnest at about the same time, age 57. The pursuit started as a bucket list item; enter a body building contest. But after he finished one position away from a trophy, he decided he wanted hardware and entered another. Accomplishing that, he decided he wanted to win an entire show.
At age 60 he became the Masters Physique National Champion boasting merely 3.5% body fat.
By his own admission, Taylor revels in the attention his hobby has yielded, and that includes sharing it on social media. That led Discovery to discover him.
"Casting conducted a grassroots effort by phone and through every social media outlet possible to find the best of the best," said Donna Driscoll, Kinetic Content's vice president of casting. "Steve was discovered by our casting team through his Instagram page.
"We have a list of 48-plus potential occupations where we could find the best of the best to compete in Man Vs. Bear," Driscoll continued. "Our casting team divided and conquered each occupation doing a nationwide search through cold calls to businesses, online research and social media outreach."
Go on TV? You bet!
Taylor said he was immediately excited when he the casting recruiters approached him.
"They gave me a call and asked me if I would go on this show," Taylor recalled. "Then when they told be the name of it, Man vs. Bear, I had to take a step back."
He thought it over and decided it was an opportunity he couldn't turn down, even though it sounded a tad unsettling, maybe even dangerous.
"I wasn't sure what to expect, but I figured these guys must know what they are doing," Taylor said.
There's a playful nature about the show that fits Taylor's temperament, and likely all the other contestants.
The two other contestants in the episode with Taylor are: Paulina, a second-generation power lifter, marathon runner and elite bow hunter; Ira, a mixed martial arts fighter (muay thai, jiu-jitsu and judo) and former international rugby player.
Like Taylor, they all add some enticing words of hype to tease in the audience.
"Fear is the only thing that makes people do great things; fear is absolutely going to push me through this," Paulina avowed.
Ira chimed in: "Competing against a bear is both scary and exciting, because it's competing against the unknown."
It's no longer an unknown to Taylor, who appeared to get nicked up a bit during the ordeal, but otherwise came out with an experience to remember.
"I had a lot of fun, and to see those bears up close -- to actually feel the bear's breath on your face – it was impressive, and I learned some things," he said.
The show's producer was happy to have him.
"Steve was a great sport and an even greater competitor," said Vincent Cariati, executive producer of Man Vs. Bear. "Although he got banged around pretty good, he remained keenly aware that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity -- and he went for it."
In addition to watching the series on Discovery, viewers can stream new episodes each week on the Discovery GO app.
Viewers can also get to know the bears and discover more about their lives on Bear Mountain at discovery.com/shows/man-vs-bear, which includes an interactive quiz.
The Discovery Channel also invites viewers to join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #ManVsBear. The station provides social media updates on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
About the bear keepers
Doug and Lynne Seus, a husband and wife team, followed their dream and adopted their first grizzly bear cub in 1977, and named him Bart the Bear. Through their industry work with Bart the Bear and their humane training methods, the Seuses spawned a legion of followers. With Bart as ambassador, the Seuses launched "Vital Ground" in 1990 through the purchase of 240 acres of prime grizzly bear habitat adjoining protected land in The Nature Conservancy's Pine Butte Swamp Preserve along the eastern front of the Rocky Mountains in Montana. Doug and Lynne are now the human parents to Bart the Bear 2, his sister Honey Bump and the eldest of the three, Tank.
For Doug, the joy of working with bears is about building a relationship with them. Today, the Seuses operate Wasatch Rocky Mountain Wildlife Ranch and focus exclusively on grizzly bears and wolves. At present, a substantial amount of their time, resources and the talent of their animals are dedicated to promoting the work of Vital Ground. Learn more at www.vitalground.org.
Web: To learn more about the "Man vs. Bear" series, visit: discovery.com/shows/man-vs-bear
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