The two men who narrowly escaped the attack of a mother grizzly bear Wednesday said they’re thankful to be alive.

Brian Braconnier and Keith Farkas of Fernie were hiking Mount Proctor and scouting the area for the upcoming elk and deer hunt when they came face-to-face with an angry grizzly bear protecting her cub.

The two had hiked the area many times and were prepared for an emergency – they just weren’t expecting one.

“We had bear spray, we had a first aid kit, proper hiking boots and gear, and we did bring a defender shotgun,” Farkas said.

They heard two growls and before they had time to react, the bear pounced on Braconnier and pushed him down a hill.

“I couldn’t see what was going on, I just heard him screaming my name and the bear growling,” Farkas said. “That’s when I reached for the shotgun.”

After the bear swiped Bracconier four times and flung him through the air by his arm, he was able to use bear spray.

“She was right there, at arms distance, I hit her with my bear spray which deterred her and then she still bowled me over, ran me over,” Braconnier recalled.

Then the bear turned its sights to Farkas, who had been fumbling to load the shotgun. He managed to shoot her, but she clawed at him and pushed him 10 feet down a hill, attacking his arm and shoulder areas.

Finally, the angry mother bear retreated into the forest with her cub.

“I’m so thankful that we’re here making this statement, the two of us, and it’s not our wives writing an obituary. It could’ve been that easy,” Farkas said.

The two gave each other first aid and were treated for puncture wounds and claw marks later in hospital, but suffered no serious injuries.

Conservation officers say they do not intend to kill the bear, who was just defending her cub. Officers also say Braconnier and Farkas did nothing wrong and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They searched for the wounded bear Thursday, but failed to find it. If the bear is mortally injured, it will be euthanized and the cub will be sent to a rescue centre.

Although Fernie is far away from a large populated urban centre like Vancouver, conservationists say grizzly sightings are becoming more common as they re-enter southwestern B.C. because of a more robust food chain.

Photographer Nick Didlick captured footage of a grizzly bear in the Pitt River in August 2011 – just 35 kilometres from Vancouver.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Peter Grainger