KELOWNA, B.C. Two hunters mauled to death by grizzly bears near Radium Hot Springs probably never had a chance, according to a coroner investigating the attack.

Shane Fumerton and William Caspell, both of Abbotsford, were packing out a large bull elk they had shot on a remote mountain Oct. 9 when they encountered a mother grizzly and her two 1-year-old cubs, said Tim Loader, coroner of Golden, a town about 50 miles west of Lake Louise.

One man apparently loaded a high-powered rifle with a cartridge but didn't have time to fire it.

The mother bear attacked them either to protect her 250-pound cubs or to claim the meat and killed them.

"It looks like the sow did all the damage," said Loader. "I think they just happened to be there and smelled the elk."

The bodies were found Friday. The bears were destroyed so searchers could recover the bodies.

Hunters gutting and packing game animals have been killed by grizzlies before, said Bob Forbes, a wildlife biologist.

"I don't think these fellows did anything to bring this attack on themselves," Forbes said. "Grizzly bears are on top of the food chain they're not used to running from anything."

Forbes believes the bears challenged the men for the meat and charged them. At this time of the year, the animals try to fatten up for the winter.

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