Authorities in southeastern British Columbia are warning hikers of an aggressive bear after a man and woman were attacked Sunday while out on a hike in the East Kootenay region.

The pair had been walking in Cherry Creek, near Kimberley, B.C., around 3 p.m. when they came across a grizzly bear feeding on a deer it had previously killed.

“The hikers got within 15 feet, unknowingly, and it startled the grizzly bear,” Sgt. Joe Caravetta, of the East Kootenay Conservation Officer Service, said Monday.

The grizzly bear attacked the female hiker first, then turned on the male hiker, only to return to the female and continue its attack. The woman is in her late 50s and the man is 80.

The pair sustained bite injuries to the head, arms and legs. They were rushed a local hospital and then flown to a Calgary hospital where they remain in stable condition.

While authorities say the grizzly bear had been accompanied by one young cub at the time of the attack, the hikers reported seeing two cubs.

After assessing the evidence, Conservation officers classified the incident as defensive in nature.

“The bear was just defending its food,” Caravetta said, adding that the grizzly had been acting in a predatory fashion, Conservation officers would be pursuing the animals to destroy them.

The area, near St. Mary’s Indian Reserve, is Crown land. It is open to the public, and is populated by wildlife.

“It’s not like the grizzly bear was seen in an abnormal place or abnormal time,” Caravetta said, adding the bear was likely collecting fat reserves in preparation for hibernation “which is any time now.”

The man and woman are local to the area where the attack occurred, and regularly hike there.