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Chasing Waterfalls in Manitoba


Are you the person who steps out their front door every morning wishing for an adventure? Do you often think about seeing more of Canada’s beautiful wilderness? Thompson is a unique travel spot in Canada, hosting 3 of Manitoba’s Star Attractions! Well on it’s way to becoming the Wolf Capital of the World, it is home of the world’s largest wolf mural, 30 wolf statues, and is in the process of developing a Wolf Centre of Excellence.

Wolf. Amanda Jacobs.

Thompson also has, hidden away in boreal forest, Pisew Falls. These waterfalls are a favourite stop for travelers heading north, but are also close enough for those already in Thompson to venture to see. From Pisew Falls you can also partake in a 22km return hike to the Kewasitchewan Falls; Manitoba’s tallest waterfall.

Pisew Falls. Travel Manitoba.

You will be hiking along the Grass River, walking in the footsteps, or alongside the paddle strokes of Aboriginal Cree nation who used this route constantly to move around from the Hudson Bay to the Saskatchewan River and western Canada’s interior. They later introduced the waterway to fur traders from the Hudson Bay in the 1700’s and it became a hugely competitive route between them and the North West Company.

This wilderness is still teeming with wildlife as the forest provides shelter for many birds and animals, including wolves. As you hike among spruce, pine, tamarack and poplar trees you can see the river for most of the trail. It is another one of Manitoba’s hidden treasures and well worth the trip.

Do you crave to learn more about this beautiful planet we live on? Spirit Way is also hosting a Wolf & Carnivore Conference this coming October. Visit our conference page for more details and don’t miss out on the exclusive day tour to Churchill with Frontier’s North! Only 5 spots left. 


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The Art of the North


Every artist dips their brush into their own soul, and paints their own nature into their pictures. ~ Henry Ward Beecher

The year of 2017 has brought the world many gifts, especially in the form of art. Thompson Spirit Way has dedicated its life to raising awareness for our wolf population and creating a wolf economy in Thompson. We are even having a Wolf & Carnivore Conference this October! However, we are also strong advocates for all things art, particularly stunning wildlife art.

The Pangeaseed Sea Walls project that took place in Churchill, Manitoba this summer blew us away. Exquisite art murals paint the Polar Bear Capital of the World to raise awareness for the persistent ocean environmental issues. Kal Barteski, Winnipeg artist and founder of the Polar Bear Foundation, stated, “We want to generate consciousness through the power of art (Bizarre Beyond Belief, 2017).”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. This project adheres to the quote: “creativity takes courage” by Henzi Matisse. It takes courage to bare your soul, your talent, and it also takes courage to use that voice to speak out on important issues.

In Wolverhampton, UK they debuted an incredible Wolves in Wolves project; consisting of 30 unique wolf statues painted from the souls of 29 artists. How could we not celebrate this with our sister city! Our own local artist, Jasyn Lucas, painted 2 of the wolf statues in Wolverhampton.

Sacred Grandfathers. Wolf Sculpture. Jasyn Lucas. Wolverhampton.

Jasyn’s painting of Sacred Grandfathers, for the Wolves in Wolves project was inspired by teachings which go back thousands of years. The animals painted on the sculpture signify: truth, courage, love, humility, wisdom, respect, and honesty.

Those traits are important to living out in the wilderness, having love and respect for the amazing animals and nature around us. We wanted to give you a chance to see it for yourself so we created the Manitoba Wild Contest for 2018. Open to European residents only, you will travel from London, UK to Manitoba, Canada. Entries end on September 30, 2017.

Follow the Spirit Way trail in Thompson and see our 16 scenic points of interest, including a ten-story wolf mural! Continue on to tour Churchill with Frontier’s North and catch a glimpse of the Sea Walls exhibit around town. Finally, walk (yes, walk) with polar bears with Churchill Wild at Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge. A journey to northern Canada to see everything from wolves, polar bears, dancing northern lights, to exquisite paintings with stories to tell.

Wolf Mural. Thompson, Manitoba.

Over 30 wolf statues guard the Spirit Way path and as you make your way along you’re sure to find the wolf spirit in you. This walkway is a Manitoba Star Attraction with its 2.5 km walking trail holding hidden treasures of historical, cultural, and artistic perspectives. It plays a key part in telling our story here in Thompson. 
Works Cited
Bizarre Beyond Belief. (2017, July 7). PangeaSeed – Sea Walls. Retrieved from Bizarre Beyond Belief:

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Becoming a Certified Polar Bear Whisperer


Photographer Ian Johnson. Seal River Heritage Lodge

You’ve heard about the Wolf and Carnivore Conference we are hosting on October 18, but did you also know about our special feature taking place on October 20? The Polar Bear Workshop, presented by Russian researcher Nikita Ovsyanikov, is an all-day practical and theoretical seminar to best demonstrate managing polar bear encounters. A great opportunity for people working or travelling in areas with polar bear populations; this is the first time its been offered in Canada.

Not every confrontation with a polar bear comes with a mediator or a jury to decide the outcome. Polar bears are lethal predators; however, they are animals with behavioural patterns that can be understood and managed. When you encounter a polar bear it’s not solely about your own safety, but also the safety of the bear. Ovsyanikov will establish rules on preventing negative encounters between humans and bears. Additionally, he will provide steps on handling conflict with a bear in a non-lethal manner should you be surprised or confronted.

The workshop is not designed to allow for closer, unsafe interactions with polar bears, but rather establish safe ways to observe and coexist when living in such a big predator’s habitat. Ovsyanikov’s system is based on his analysis from over 2,000 personal encounters with polar bears. His hands-on, or rather hands-off, research allowed him to understand what drives a polar bear in its natural environment. What provokes a bear to attack? How do you deter a bear with the intent to kill you without harming the animal in the process? These are some of the questions Ovsyanikov will be addressing and providing solutions for during the workshop.

Photographer Brandi Hayberg. Frontiers North Adventures

There will be two parts of the workshop: individual safety and safe infrastructure. Individual safety includes: theory on understanding factors that cause conflict and basics of polar bear behavior and practical training on how to perform safety rules. The second part, safe infrastructure, includes theory and specific planning considering geography, ecology, polar bear density and activity in the area.

At the end of the seminar, people will receive a Certificate of Attendance. The maximum number of attendees is 16 people. The seminar will be held the day after the Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 20; registration ends October 1.

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Lodging in Thompson


Our upcoming Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19 is helping pilot our wolf economy in Thompson, Manitoba. The community of Thompson has been such a great help in making this possible right down to the people providing accommodations. Below is a list of all the hotels that offer a special conference rate for your stay in Thompson and will help you choose the right place for you. 

Best Western Queen Suite

Best Western: the rooms have an elegant atmosphere where you have access to a kitchen, large vanities in the bathrooms, and a spacious living room separate from the bedroom. In the hotel you have access to an exercise room, sauna, and complimentary breakfast.

Offers a conference rate and you can call directly to book with them.

Burntwood Hotel: quaint, northern style rooms and if you’re looking for a little extra relaxing you can spring for a suite with a Jacuzzi. This hotel comes with an indoor pool, complete with a water slide if you’re looking to bring your family along for the conference and is conveniently located to city shops and entertainment.

Conference code: WWC and rates are 99$ single room 109$ double room rate.

Days Inn & Suites: choose from rooms with Jacuzzis, king sized beds, or a room with two queens. This hotel comes with free hot breakfast and an exercise room. 

Conference rate: 138.60$ CDN + tax. Must call Days Inn directly to book.

Days Inn King Suite

Meridian Hotel: fully equipped rooms, complete with fridge and in-room coffee. Hotel restaurant, Lone Wolf Cafe, specializes in northern style cooking. There is also the Wolf’s Den Gift Shop that sells local art such as: handmade mukluks, jewelry, paintings and mittens. Gift shop and confectionery is open 24/7.

Book by phone and use discount code: WOLF2017

Fruili Suite Rentals: spacious apartment living, your choice between one or two-bedroom, each suite is furnished with a full sized kitchen and amenities.

Conference rate: 89$/night for 2 people.

Lake View Inn & Suites: spacious rooms with options such as: 2 double beds, single king room, two-room suites, and accessible rooms featuring 2 double beds. You stay includes free continental breakfast, free movies, and access to the fitness centre. 

Conference code: LWOLF and rates are 130$ king room, $135 double bedroom, $145 two-room suite.

Lakeview Inn Suites

Mystery Lake Hotel: rooming options include executive suites, king bedded rooms, standard double rooms and standard queens. There is a sauna, exercise room and free admission to the Norplex pool included in your stay. Adventures North Dining Room and Trappers Tavern are accessible in the hotel. At Trappers Tavern you can enjoy live entertainment, dancing and VLTs.

Quality Inn & Suites: you have your choice of different styled rooms, each comes with comfy pillow top mattresses and a kitchenette. The hotel provides access to free movie rental, hot buffet breakfast, 24 hour fitness centre and a 24 hour business centre. This is also a pet friendly hotel, extra fees included. 

Discount code: LWOLF and rates are 130$ queen room, 135$ king room, 135$ room with 2 double beds.

Quality Inn King Suite

All rates listed are Canadian dollar and some conference rates are only redeemable by phone. 

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Wildlife Whisperers: Coming October 2017


Wolf Conference logo

Wolf in the grass. Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.

We’d like to introduce you to some of the speakers for our upcoming Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson! We are very excited to welcome such brilliant and passionate people as speakers! There is limited space at the conference so be sure to register soon! Early bird offer ends on July 31, 2017!


David Mech. Speaker. Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.
David Mech

Dave is a wolf expert, he’s been studying wolves for most of his career, since 1958 to be exact! He is a senior research scientist for the U.S. Department of the Interior and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. His research on wolves has taken him around the world from Minnesota to Canada to Italy and beyond. He is passionate about educating people on the nature of wolves and founded the International Wolf Centre and has published 11 books along with hundreds of articles on wolves and other wildlife. Dave will be presenting with Gilbert Proulx on the question of wolves being responsible for the decline of the caribou and moose populations.


Nikita Ovsyanikov. Speaker. Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.
Nikita Ovsyanikov

Nikita has dedicated his life to studying Arctic animals. He started with studying Arctic foxes and later found himself living completely isolated among one of the world’s largest predators — polar bears. As a professional zoologist and doctor of biological sciences, along with his footwork with polar bears and other wildlife, he is a specialist in animal behaviour and behavioural ecology. He will be presenting on polar bears and climate change, as well as offering a workshop on safe methodologies for preventing and managing conflict with polar bears. This has never before been offered in Canada and we are very excited! Nikita has published 60 scientific articles, a monograph on Arctic foxes, two books on polar bears, and a fascinating documentary “Polar Bears: Life on the Field of Bones”.

Erin McCloskey. Speaker. Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.
Erin McCloskey


Erin, author of Wolves in Canada, has a Bachelor of Science in conservation biology and management. She has been involved in numerous endangered species conservation projects around the world. Erin has traveled as an editor and author for various publishers while working with international volunteers in Europe on wildlife projects. She’s worked on wildlife research expeditions in Namibia, Brazil, Oman and Australia. Author of over a dozen books, she focused a few of her books on the intricacies of human-wildlife conflicts in Canada and the USA: Bear Attacks and Wolves of Canada. We look forward to hearing Erin present at our Wolf and Carnivore Conference!

Gilbert Proulx. Speaker. Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18-19, 2017 in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.
Gilbert Proulx


Gilbert is the Director of Science at Alpha Wildlife Research & Management Ltd. with 41 years of experience as a field wildlife biologist and we are excited to have him join us at the conference. A brilliant mind, Gilbert has his bachelors and masters in biology as well as a Ph.D. As an adjunct professor in the Department of Zoology and Entomology in South Africa, he is passing on his knowledge and passion for animal life. He will be presenting with David Mech on the question of whether wolves are responsible for the decline of the caribou and moose populations.

Also, don’t miss out on a chance to help develop a global Wolf Centre of Excellence! Facilitated by Sheldon Mcleod, there will be two sessions on finalizing the strategic planning for this awesome project!

Click here to register for the conference today and get the EARLY BIRD discount! Offer ends July 31, 2017! Once again, we have lined up some fabulous speakers. Don’t miss out on the chance to interact with them personally! Only 140 spaces available!

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Wolf Talk – Wolf and Carnivore Conference


We are hosting a Wolf and Carnivore Conference on October 18, 2017 here in Thompson, Manitoba! With world-renowned scientists, researchers and speakers attending it’s sure to be an enlightening experience. Thompson has a healthy wolf population roaming its surrounding boreal forests. Our wolf population size is unstudied, yet even in their elusive nature we have plenty of sightings. Wolf populations used to be thriving in North America, an estimated 250,000 – 500,000 roamed freely. By 1960, the wolf population was reduced to around 300 in the States. Since then, people have become the wolves among us, fighting for the survival of these beautiful carnivores. We want to encourage people around the world to view wolves in a positive light and replace the stigma around these amazing animals.

Photo credit: Robert Postma – Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

 At the conference there will be presentations on how climate change is affecting polar bears and other carnivores, whether wolves are at fault for declining moose and caribou populations, and the creation and development a Wolf Centre of Excellence. There will also be a never-before offered workshop by polar bear expert, Nikita Ovysanikov, on safe polar bear encounters and conflict prevention methodology!

The conference is a smaller venue, designed to provide more personal interaction with the keynote speakers and wolf experts. This conference is designed to help create a wolf economy in Manitoba and help develop a global Wolf Viewing and Study Centre. There are unlimited research opportunities in the northern Manitoba region. You can see stunning public art such as our 10-story wolf mural and multiple wolf statues around town.  Attendees can also register for a private charter to see polar bears in Churchill!

There are only 140 seats available at the Wolf and Carnivore Conference, so make sure to register today! Don’t miss out on the chance to be a part of the pack in furthering wolf research, awareness and conservation! Go to  to register today and get the EARLY BIRD rate! Offer ends July 31st.

To all of you who care about the future of the wolves among us, register today and come see what we are doing in Thompson, Manitoba to change wolf history!

To any of our European followers, make sure to sign up for the Manitoba Wild Contest and enter to win a trip from London to Northern Manitoba. You can see wolves, polar bears, and much more on this trip of a lifetime!

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By Bonnie Bishop.

As a university student in the Department of Geography at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, research can take one many places around the world. For me, Thompson, Manitoba was not a place I ever thought I would end up. Before starting this project, I had a strong interest in human-environment interactions, particularly human interactions with wildlife. As I was deciding whether or not to do a master’s degree under the supervision of Dr. Alistair Bath, I had two projects to choose from – studying bison in Alaska, USA or studying a “Wolf Capital of the World” initiative in Thompson, Manitoba. It’s not common to see positive perceptions of wolves in the human dimensions field and for such a small place to take on such a big title. Besides, how often can one say they worked on a project led by an NGO (Spirit Way Inc.) like the “Wolf Capital of the World”? The choice was obvious. Of course, it’s not easy moving to a small, northern city that you’ve never seen before, but the reward of the experience was tremendous.

Before this project, there was no solid knowledge of whether or not public support existed for the Spirit Way Inc. project to identify Thompson as “Wolf Capital of the World” and/or a “Wolf Centre of Excellence”. The purpose of my research is to better understand public attitudes toward wolves and these two initiatives. My research would fill a knowledge gap and help considerations of key issues surrounding wolves, wolf management, and the economic nature of Thompson as “Wolf Capital of the World” or a “Wolf Centre of Excellence”. Phase one of the research took place in 2014 and was focused on local resident attitudes. Phase two took place in 2015 and focused on visitor and local youth attitudes. The questionnaire for all three groups of people had the same, pre-tested questions, which allowed for comparisons among them. The survey included 101 questions on various topics related to wolves and the “Wolf Capital of the World” and “Wolf Centre of Excellence” initiative. With ethics approval and permission from the Mystery Lake School District I collected over 800 questionnaires in the span of three months in 2014 and six weeks in 2015; enough questionnaires to be able to statistically generalize my results to the population of Thompson. After speaking to hundreds of people, I found that many residents, youth, and visitors support the initiative, but there still exists some questions and uncertainties. Approximately 50% of participants were in support of the “Wolf Capital of the World” initiative, while approximately 30% remained neutral. After speaking with many people, I predict that this uncertainty comes from a lack of knowledge about the initiative – something that is a work in progress for these types of projects. I believe that in time, this will change. The results I gathered should help to guide further educational efforts and decisions regarding the future of Thompson, as well as to identify where potential differences and conflicts may lie and to address those issues.

In my adventures, I met and spoke with many people about my research in order to find out what residents knew about the initiative, how they felt about it, and to learn more about Thompson in general. I learned about Thompson’s history, aboriginal culture, hunting traditions, and even how to make caribou calls to attract wolves. Of course, because my research was based on the ever elusive wolf, I never did see one in Thompson despite my patient early morning and late evening attempts.

In addition to my research, Dr. Alistair Bath facilitated related workshops in Thompson and in Winnipeg. Since 2014, two research reports, a workshop report, and several media interviews have been delivered. I have presented this research in many capacities including presentations to over 100 researchers and practitioners at The Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba in October 2015 and to several researchers at the Pathways Human Dimensions conference in Nanyuki, Kenya in January 2016. Each time I present my research, it fosters an enormous amount of intrigue in Thompson and the “Wolf Capital of the World”. Between the research participants and the additional individuals interested, there exists a solid basis of support for the wolf initiatives being undertaken by Spirit Way Inc.

At present time, I have completed more extensive data analysis, and I am now in the writing process of my thesis, as well as publications for academic journals, which will reach a wide, international audience. Combined with the completed work, this will create knowledge mobilization for the “Wolf Capital of the World” and “Wolf Centre of Excellence” initiatives. Wildlife can often be an asset to diversification, and these two projects could help stimulate tourism opportunities, provide some economic sustainability, help give the city a more positive image, and provide entrepreneurship opportunities for local residents. I hope that my work will bring awareness to a community that I know has a lot of potential not only for tourism, but for research opportunities as well. These past two years have presented me with one-of-a-kind experiences that I am so grateful to have had. I’m not sure where my next adventure will take me, but I am definitely looking forward to completing my thesis work and will be following the “Wolf Capital of the World” in years to come.

To receive a copy of research reports, workshop reports, or more information about this research, individuals can contact Bonnie Bishop at or Spirit Way Inc. at


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At the Wildlife Society Conference, held in Winnipeg in October, 2015, members of Spirit Way Inc. and the Boreal Discovery Centre from Thompson promoted their plans and programs to a record attendance of 1560 people. A few university students who visited the Wolf Capital of the World display booth were dismayed to see a GPS wolf “hunt” in Thompson, until they learned that Spirit Way Inc. was promoting a hunt for wolf statues!

The idea for the Spirit Way Wolf Hunt grew out of the Spirit Way project. Spirit Way is a two-kilometer long “Manitoba Star Attraction”. This easy walk takes you past 17   Rob Shultz Bonnie2unique points of interest that have won awards for Spirit Way and made it one of Travel Manitoba’s “Top 20 Places to Visit in Manitoba”.

The GPS Wolf Hunt was conceived by Volker Beckmann who designed a small passport booklet that show the statues produced by the Spirit Way group. Each statue had been sponsored by a company or agency for $5000. The statues are identical in shape but painted completely differently by various artists. The statues are 7.5 feet tall and made of solid concrete weighing 5500 lbs. The prototype was shaped from styrofoam by award winning muralist Charles Johnston of Winnipeg. A fiberglas mold was then prepared by Peter Wall of Roland, Manitoba. Gerry Derocquigny of Lorette, Manitoba, a retired concrete craftsman, gets each statue poured and shipped to Thompson once the order is received.

By 2009, Spirit Way had moved and positioned the heavy 49 wolf statues in three cities – Winnipeg, Thompson, and Churchill, and the GPS Wolf Hunt was launched. This Hunt is a form of geocaching, which is a popular pastime requiring the use of a global positioning system (GPS) to locate caches in precise locations. Most geocaches contain small objects which you either record in a log book or exchange for a small object of your own. The Spirit Way GPS Wolf Hunt requires that hunters simply locate 49 wolves across Manitoba. “It’s a unique way to combine the quickly-developing past time of geocaching, with an appreciation for art and the adventure of visiting parts of Manitoba you might otherwise not see,” said Beckmann.

The statue hunt requires the person to purchase a GPS Wolf Hunt booklet for $5 from a vendor in each city. They must check the website,, to obtain the latest GPS coordinates, as some statues have been moved since the passport was printed. The mission is to find each statue using the GPS coordinates and enter the statue’s name/title into the booklet. They must get all the titles correct and have that confirmed in each city by a special rubber stamp in their passport. Once all three rubber-stamped impressions are entered, they have completed their hunt that has taken them 1000 miles from the prairies around Winnipeg to the boreal forest around Thompson to the tundra at Churchill. It is a fun and challenging travel adventure across Manitoba!

The last step is to simply send their contact information to the website. A personalized MASTER WOLF TRACKER PDF certificate is sent via email. It is signed by all mayors of Thompson, Winnipeg and Churchill. The recipients can print their certificate, frame it, and hang it on a wall as many do. Their name is also posted on the website as a Master Wolf Tracker.

Stan and Lynne Ritz of Winnipeg were the world’s first GPS Master Wolf Trackers. “This was an awesome adventure and we really enjoyed the wolf hunt,’ said Stan Ritz. “Our adventure left us with memories to last a lifetime.” The couple found all the wolves in Winnipeg before driving to Thompson and boarding the train to Churchill. Many trackers are visitors from all parts of North America. One couple were touring from Peru, South America, and found all 49 statues to be recognized as Master Wolf Trackers. One family from Flin Flon had their children take turns writing the wolf’s name into their booklet. Mom said, “The kids were having a blast running to each statue to see who could reach it first. We giggled and laughed a lot. The hunt is a fun thing to do as a family.”


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Rob ShultzRob Shultz

(This was an editorial posted by Rob Schultz in the International Wolf magazine, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.)

Recently I traveled to Thompson, Manitoba. Surrounded by boreal forest, this northern mining community is known for its harsh winters—with temperatures falling so low that automobile and aircraft engine manufacturers test their products there in some of the world’s most extreme weather conditions. It’s the most northern Canadian city connected by road in the region, where civilization ends and an untamed wilderness begins.

I was invited by Spirit Way Inc., a community based non-profit organization, working to build Thompson as the Wolf Capital of the World. This volunteer group has raised over $1 million for a variety of wolf projects. Arriving in Thompson, it’s clear to me that the people who live here have tremendous respect and appreciation for wolves. Streets and a walking path called “Spirit Way” are lined with statues of wolves painted by local artists, a 10-story apartment building proudly overlooks the city sporting a massive lighted mural of a wolf, and Spirit Way Inc.’s mascot is a spirited gray wolf named “Timber.” Even two streets in town are called Wolf Street and Wolf Street!

Despite Manitoba laws that allow for the hunting of wolves from August through March as part of a big game (moose, elk, caribou) license, a flourishing wolf population surrounds the city. Sightings of wolves are common, and few of the people I spoke with could understand why anyone would want to hunt these magnificent animals. On Spirit Way’s website,, Thompson residents and tourists can post photos and videos of their wolf sightings. Each month a cash prize is offered for the best wolf photo. There are some remarkable photos to prove that wolves and wolf packs roam in this region of northern Manitoba. Spirit Way’s gamut of wolf projects underway from public art, to a wolf statue GPS hunt, to youth education, to public engagement, etc. allows this community to live up to its claim of being the “Wolf Capital of the World.”

What makes Thompson so different from other wolf-rich environs? The remoteness of the region and its harsh living conditions undoubtedly prevent the wolf-human conflict that commonly results from livestock and human population densities.

But credit also needs to be given to Spirit Way Inc. which has raised more than $2 million to promote eco-tourism and cultural heritage in Thompson. Its work appears to be changing local attitudes toward wolves by teaching people to value the wolf as an important natural resource.

Thompson’s celebration of the wolf is an excellent example of the environmental and economic success that can be achieved when we work to enrich public attitudes toward wolves through education. While local culture and remoteness give this community an advantage, its

success has been fueled by committed volunteers and community leaders who teach respect and understanding of the important role wolves play in a balanced environment. A message that the world and wildlife community should hear.

Rob Schultz

Executive Director

International Wolf Center

Ely, Minnesota, USA


MISSION: The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future

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Developing a Wolf Economy


In February 2012, a team of people from Spirit Way Inc, University College of the North, Travel Manitoba, The Wildlife Society/Manitoba and Frontiers North Adventures met with government ministers in Winnipeg to present a Discussion Paper entitled “Building a Wolf Economy”. It was prepared after Thompson Unlimited had funded a Feasibility Study on Thompson as the Wolf Capital of Canada. The Discussion Paper outlined economic development considerations and opportunities in various sectors from wolf research, education, science, policy, art and culture, events, and eco-tourism.

Wolves are apex predators and play an important role in nature so that their prey do not overwhelm the ecosystem. Studies in Isle Royale National Park and Yellowstone National Park have shown the detrimental effect when wolves are removed from the landscape by arbitrary hunting or culling programs.

After wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone in the late 1990s, massive numbers of visitors traveled to the park to learn about and try to get a glimpse of wolves. In 2005 an economic study showed that 96,000 visitors came to the Yellowstone to see wolves and spent some $35 million for travel, accommodation, and meals, etc. In Ely, Minnesota, the International Wolf Center with its captive wolves attracts over 40,000 visitors a year and supports over 60 full and part time jobs in a community of 3500 people. There are over 70 wolf parks in North America, and the public’s fascination with wolves can literally create an industry.

Tourism is the 4th largest industry in the world. Did you know tourism in Manitoba is a $1.6 billion dollar industry each year with 23,5000 tourism jobs? Tourism generates more tax revenues for the Province of Manitoba than wheat! At a local level, every dollar spent by a visitor multiplies four times as the money circulates in the community.

In Thompson, the Heritage North Museum receives between 3000 to 4000 signatures in their guestbook each year from people from Asia, South America, Australia, Europe, United States and Canada. The majority of the signatures are from tourists traveling by train to and from Churchill. This is a captive audience that Thompson has wondered for decades how to break into and hold them before or after their visit to Churchill.

Thompson is positioned centrally in Manitoba, directly in the path of these wildlife lovers flocking to Churchill to see polar bears or beluga whales. Each July and August, over 12,000 people view, kayak, and swim with thousands of beluga whales in Hudson Bay. In October and November, 18,000+ tourists visit Churchill to experience polar bears.

It is a misconception that tourists only want to visit the “big city”. Most tourism in our area happens right in our own back yard. The appetite for unique travel experiences is growing. The most successful destinations are no longer focusing on a list of things to see and do, but rather, publishing compelling stories and experiences that resonate with travelers. is such a site offering tourism content in fun, new ways.

As Northerners, we live and enjoy everything that our accessible wilderness offers. We know there are great experiences to be had and great stories to tell. We have a lot to offer!

Tourism is everybody’s business as it can benefit the community at large and generates pride when residents showcase their community’s assets. When we all work together, big things can be accomplished. Tourism depends on the support of the entire community to be successful. From local residents who volunteer their time, businesses that collaborate on development initiatives and governments that provide financial support – it takes every member of a region to stand together. This is an exciting time as the Government of Manitoba is working with the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce and Travel Manitoba to invest in tourism industry in the province.

Regional tourism associations need community support and leadership. Our strengths will be in international destination readiness, signage, transportation and infrastructure. Air access is one of the most important factors. Starting in the summer of 2015 WestJet offers a direct flight from Gatwick Airport, London, England to Winnipeg. This is the equivalent of a super highway from Europe to our door in Manitoba! Thompson can now easily benefit from same day travel for wildlife adventurers who wish to visit our region from overseas. Currently, Spirit Way Inc. and Travel Manitoba are working on a major promotion campaign in England in 2017 to promote the Wolf Capital and Polar Bear Capital that will take advantage of that new airline corridor.

There are other seeds in place that will grow fruit in the short term. Did you know Thompson and region have 3 Manitoba Star Attractions? They are the Heritage North Museum, Pisew Falls and Spirit Way, a 2.5 km walking and biking pathway with 17 Points of Interest that has won 4 awards, and is one of the top 20 places to visit in Manitoba. Star Attractions are what visitors want to see and experience, preferably with informed and hospitable tour guides who can show the sites and tell the good stories.

One of the Points of Interest along the Spirit Way is a gigantic ten story wolf mural which has become Thompson’s landmark and has received international attention. It was the only mural in Canada chosen for a World Book of Murals in 2008. Thereafter, Spirit Way Inc. developed a campaign to position Thompson as the Wolf Capital of the World and to develop best practices “in all things wolf”. Spirit Way Inc. is working with Frontier North Adventures to offer a Wolf Howl Walk in August 2017 for their guests who will stop in Thompson for two days along with their visit to Churchill and Winnipeg.

Wolves are hard to see in our dense boreal forest. That elusive nature heightens their appeal. Once wolves, that are rescued or rehabilitated, are introduced at the Boreal Discovery Centre, there will be educational programs and viewing experiences for residents and visitors to learn and understand the social and complex nature of wolf packs that are always elusive.

Any great event or festival is successful with the help of volunteers, and a tourism industry for Thompson can benefit from having volunteers. Spirit Way Inc. is undertaking new and exciting projects for 2017 that will need volunteers. Watch for further updates to come. If someone wants to contribute and has their own great ideas they wish to pursue, or are unsure what to do, but would like to participate, they are welcome to contact Spirit Way Inc. through the Heritage North Museum, the Visitor Centre at the Meridian Hotel, or email at Visit and LIKE us at Facebook/Wolf Capital of the World.

Information on the Wolf Capital is becoming available on the Thompson Guide mobile app, a free app with the latest in calendar events with community content, services, festivals, entertainment, and northern lights forecaster, and much more! This app is a great way for Thompson and region to interact and stay in touch while highlighting ourselves to the world. It’s a free download when using the keywords: Thompson Guide.

Tourism is a real leader in Manitoba’s economy. It is critically important that we value this resource and foster its development for the continued prosperity of our province. It is estimated by 2030 that every one in eleven jobs will be tied to tourism. The drivers for a successful tourism industry are Destination, Strength, and Community Engagement. Investing in tourism will only make Thompson and Manitoba an even greater place to live and work. Promoting the Wolf Capital of the World will help Thompson grow and diversify and will lead our community in the eco-tourism direction.

November 28, 2016

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