In October 2015, a team of six Thompson volunteers from Spirit Way Inc and the Boreal Discovery Centre attended the Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg. This was the first such TWS conference in Canada and may not be repeated for another 20 years. An attendance record was broken with 1500 delegates from across North America attending for five days who were researchers, biologists, scientists, and many others in the wildlife and conservation sector. Nearly 50% were university students from Canada and nine American universities, who will be looking for careers in the wildlife and conservation fields in the near future.
Spirit Way Inc became a Gold Sponsor through a $10,000 contribution from Travel Manitoba. This allowed for dedicated presentations and a workshop on Thompson as Wolf Capital of the World and developing a Wolf Centre of Excellence. Hundreds of people attended the Spirit Way and Boreal Discovery Centre trade show display. It generated the second most amount of traffic at the conference. Connections were made with TWS management and other key people in the wildlife field.
A prize trip to Thompson and Churchill was offered to the nearly 300 people who came to listen to Spirit Way’s and the Boreal’s presentations. Through donations from Calm Air, Days Inn Thompson, Frontiers North, Travel Manitoba, Spirit Way Inc., and Eugene Larocque, the winning entry was Jennifer Rodgers who brought her father with her on her trip. Jennifer and Art Rodgers work for the Ontario Department of Natural Resources and Forestry in Thunder Bay. Art is the Research Scientist at the Centre for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research. He was very familiar with wolves and wolf issues in Ontario, as well as the biological and human dimensions aspect of wolf/human conflicts in his province.
The winning couple were only able to stay in Thompson for one day due to flight schedules and then three days in Churchill. Volker Beckmann toured the couple around Spirit Way, Pisew Falls, Paint Lake, and Eugene Larocque’s honey bee farms south of Thompson. in full bee protection gear, Larocque took the visitors on an informative tour of his honey farm as bees from the hive buzzed around and bounced off everyones head mask. The visitors learned a great deal how the bees produce their honey and how the pollination process changes the flowers and vegetation growing in the area around the hives. Beckmann showed the father and daughter Thompson’s wolf mural and wolf statues in town and discussed various aspects Spirit Way’s plans for wolf research, tourism and developing a global Wolf Centre of Excellence in Thompson over the next few years.
The Rodger’s trip to Churchill was extremely enjoyable as they were able to see and experience beluga whales and polar bears. Frontiers North Adventures provided the complementary tourist package for the couple. “My dad and I enjoyed the trip of a lifetime, between learning about Thompson and all it has to offer, to seeing belugas and polar bears up close in Churchill. Definitely a trip to remember!”, stated Jennifer upon her return home to Thunder Bay.
In Thompson, Beckmann and Larocque appreciated the feedback from Art and Jennifer and are starting to plan for more varied and greater wolf and boreal forest eco-tours in 2016. They will be planning and working with Frontiers North to offer a value-added tour to their guests to continue to highlight Thompson as Wolf Capital of the World.