KIMBERLEY, B.C. - A man and a woman who startled a female grizzly bear and at least one cub were airlifted to Calgary hospital after surviving serious injuries.

Kimberley RCMP said the attack occurred along a creek in thick brush near a deer kill late Sunday afternoon.

“It is believed that the attack was defensive. It is believed it was a grizzly with at least one cub,” said Cpl. Pat Prefontaine of the Kimberley Cranbrook Detachment.

Conservation officer Joe Caravetta said the bear attacked after the woman yelled and began to run.

“The sow chased her and knocked her down," Caravetta said. "The man had a walking stick and he tried to save her. Then the bear attacked him.”

Caravetta says somehow the badly injured pair managed to make it to the road and get help.

“They each had several bites to the legs, groin, head and arms. Both victims were badly injured and distraught,” he said.

He added that the male hiker initially reported that the bear was not a grizzly but did have two cubs. Conservation officers confirmed later Monday it was a grizzly.

“We can definitely now confirm it was a grizzly from tracks in the snow and mud,” Caravetta said. “The cub or cubs were young, born this spring.”

He said it was impossible to tell if there were one or two cubs.

Conservation officers were on the scene all day, but Caravetta said the bear hadn't been back to the site.

“That is common for a bear that has been traumatized,” he said.

“The victims were traumatized but the bear was frightened too."

Caravetta said conservation officers have decided not to track the bear because she was exhibiting normal behaviour by defending a kill and her cubs.

"There is absolutely no history of this bear in the area. We canvassed neighbours all day. She’s been raising her cubs since spring with no problems.

"Based on that, we made the decision that we will not destroy her.”

RCMP Sgt. Laurie Jalbert said police were still a little unclear how the couple was rescued but said the call for help — first to BC Ambulance, then to the RCMP — came from someone other than the victims.

Jalbert said the hikers are experienced outdoors people.

Caravetta says that the couple had apparently been out of town for a few weeks and just got home and decided to go for a walk.

(Kimberley Daily Bulletin)

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