'You know the risks' of a wilderness race, says Yukon marathon runner confronted by bears
Yukon River Trail Marathon considering additional measures to ensure runners are prepared for bears
A bear encounter on this year's Yukon River Trail Marathon left some wondering about the proper response for that type of situation.
But the runner who actually saw the bears doesn't think any substantial changes to the race are necessary.
"You're running a wilderness race in the Yukon and you know the risks," said Brendan Morphet.
Morphet, a marathon runner, said he chose to travel light without bear spray or a cellphone as a strategy to get ahead.
He was in the lead in Sunday's race when he came across two bears on the trail about 12 metres ahead. He backed away but said one bear began advancing toward him.
Calling conservation officers
Yukon's Department of the Environment says it's concerned nobody called a conservation officer at the time.
Erin Loxam, a spokesperson for the department, said people should contact an officer about all bear sightings.
"Conservation officers rely on the public to call the tip line and report your bear sightings," she said, "especially one that could be aggressive or have the potential for human-wildlife conflict."
Ken Sylvestre, an organizer of the Yukon River Trail Marathon, said they did not call a conservation officer, but they did have conservation officer pamphlets at registration. They also gave runners a bear warning at the start line.
"We want to be as clear as we can that there are bears out there and individual runners have to be comfortable dealing with that," he said.
Sylvestre said they are considering minor changes to make sure everyone knows how to respond to a bear.
This may include putting the conservation officer's phone number on handouts for volunteers and aid stations, and ensuring the aid stations know to alert each other of a bear sighting.
'Great story to tell'
Morphet wound up losing his lead in the race, having run a longer distance than a typical bear-free marathon.
Despite the scare, Morphet said he had a good experience.
"There was a lot of sportsmanship that happened later when I really crashed," he said, including another runner sharing some energy fuel with him.
"I came out unscathed, and I have a great story to tell about it. It could have ended a lot worse."