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When Spirit Way Inc completed the wolf mural on Highland Tower in 2005, a great deal of unexpected public and media interest was unleashed. CTV produced a half hour TV show on “Manitoba Moments”. The Toronto Globe and Mail wrote an article. The Winnipeg Free Press did the same. Even unsolicited public donations were received from strangers who wanted to contribute to the proposed wolf park at the Thompson Zoo. After the first 24 painted wolf statues were released in 2006, public interest, donations, and support kept increasing. In 2012, the first international Wolf & Carnivore Conference was held in Thompson. Magazine editors and independent writers starting writing about the Wolf Capital of Canada until an American wolf education institute stated, “You guys should be the Wolf Capital of the World because of all the different wolf projects you have going”.

During this time, one nagging question kept arising by local people who said, “I’ve never seen a wolf around Thompson. How can we be the Wolf Capital?”. In response, in 2009, the Spirit Way Board launched a campaign to encourage the public to post any public wolf sighting within 100 miles of Thompson on That has developed into a $55 (North of 55) monthly prize for the Best Wolf Photo of the Month.

What has become evident is that the north’s dense boreal forest and the elusive nature of wolves keeps them hidden often, but not always. As wary as wolves are of humans, they are an intelligent and curious apex predator species. Even if you don’t see them, they may be watching you as you camp, fish, hunt, canoe, or just drive by on the road. Human/wolf conflict issues are extremely rare even if you see a wolf close by. The paramount bit of advice wildlife managers will state is “DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE”. Once a wolf (or any carnivore) gets used to people food or garbage, they can become habituated to humans and that will sooner or later cause a conflict. If that conflict has to be resolved by wildlife officials, it may mean the death of the animal.

Over the past few years on, some remarkable photos and video clips of wolves have been posted by the public. Often from fleeting glimpses as a wolf is seen and vanishes. Many sightings occur, but people have mentioned that once they dig their camera or smart phone out of their pocket, the wolf is gone! Whether you get a photo or not, Spirit Way still requests you post the text information… Where? When? Details? This provides valuable information about movements, occurrence, health, density, etc. Some of these are also posted on Facebook/Wolf Capital of the World.

Some fascinating photos now show – wolves in summer when their fur is thin; wolves with a parasitic mange condition that does not bode well to last the next winter;  wolf pups playing along a river shoreline; gray wolves (canus lupus) of different colors – tan, white, black, and various shades of gray; and many other photos of beautiful and  majestic predators.

One video clip posted on January 11, 2016 by Armann Jonasson, on Facebook/Wolf Capital of the World, of a wolf howling in front of his truck and listening to the alpha male or female howling in the background while the pack is on a hunt, has received a remarkable 212,000 views from all over the world! This is a Facebook record for Thompson.

Recently, Kristie Crate was traveling about 20 miles north of Thompson when she spotted a black wolf and white one crossing the highway. When she stopped her car, the white wolf disappeared in the forest. The black one stayed at the edge and watched with curiosity. Was this the first time this wolf had seen a human? Kristie took out her camera with a 300 mm lens and took a photograph of a black wolf with its piercing eyes. This striking image (see photo) represents the beautiful nature of our Canadian wilderness in the North. Kristie won the prize of the month.

As the humans become more urbanized (82% of North America), fewer people globally get to experience wilderness and wildlife. Even if you never see or hear a wolf in the Thompson region, be grateful that they are out there as they have been for tens of thousands of years doing their part towards keeping a balanced ecosystem of prey and predator.

YOUR photo or your text of a wolf provides proof that wolves roam in northern Manitoba and helps to build a wolf economy in Thompson and region in the fields of science, research, education, eco-tourism, conservation, events, art and culture. Keep posting!


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The first phase of the newly recreated Boreal Discovery Centre has been developed, and Spirit Way Inc is in the progress of the final touches to turn this labour of love over to the Boreal Discovery Centre Board of Directors. Over $240,000 has been raised and spent towards a world class wolf habitat and education centre. Volunteers spent four years researching how to design and build the best wolf park by visiting sanctuaries in Minnesota, Idaho, and British Columbia, and consulting with wolf curators and landscape architects to utilize optimal ideas from each. Other wolf sanctuaries provided input into the final design for Thompson.

This exhibit, created over a 1 1/4 acre combination of disturbed and pristine boreal forest, is by far the most state-of-the-art facility amongst its type in Canada. The wolf habitat meets or exceeds international standards, as well as space per animal. It is a gigantic 52 times larger than the previous wolf enclosure in Thompson built in 1983! It includes earthen berms, two dens, a pond with waterfall, natural virgin forest, and a retirement zone for older wolves and high ground features to reduce stress in pack animals. Life expectancy of captive wolves that have been rescued and live in a natural space can exceed double their life span when roaming in the wild. The natural treed area in the park is as beautiful as any of the over 100 wolf parks and refuges in North America including the one at the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg. The solid and double fencing allows wolves to be unseen and undisturbed when they retreat into the forest. Yet, in winter, their curiosity will draw them close to the viewing windows with children peering from the inside.

The Boreal Discovery Board must follow strict Wildlife Branch regulations before wolves are eventually brought to Thompson. No animals can ever be taken from the wild, nor can rescued wolves ever be returned to the wild.

Compliments and praise have been received from architects and planners on this development. Support and accolades for the design have come from various sources:

– A CAZA director stated, it’s an “impressive project”.

Community Places provided $50,000 for this project.

– A senior UCN Executive made an unsolicited, personal $1000 donation.

– An independent wildlife film maker, who owns two rescued wolves, visited Thompson and said, “This is the best habitat space I have ever seen for wolves. I’d like my animals to retire here.

– UCN Elders toured the site in August of this year with Board directors and commented… “We did not expect to see an exhibit of this size for the wolves.” Actually seeing is believing.

Spirit Way Inc’s goal was to exceed current CAZA (Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums) standards, and President Marion Morberg is proud to say that they have achieved this. The goal is turn over the wolf habitat after the Wolf Viewing and Study Centre building is complete which is the next and last phase. An architectural concept has been prepared for a beautiful 2000 sq ft building that allows for viewing of wolves all year around. Interpretative displays in this education centre will enable students, families, and visitors to learn of the important value of this apex predator in a balanced eco-system. Outside experts have mentioned that Thompson and region can be an example to the world of “best practices in all things wolf” as human/wolf conflicts are rare in northern Manitoba.

The quality animal care standards that are being incorporated into the landscape will carry on into the next phases of development as the Boreal Discovery Board moves ahead with its ambitious plans for caribou, lynx, gray owls, eagles, and sturgeon, all species in the northern boreal forest. This facility will eventually provide strong educational programming that will stimulate all guests to value the boreal forest and the plants and animals that live therein. It will become a tremendous asset for Thompson over the next few years.

Stay tuned for the grand opening in the future, and they will love to show you their vision and other plans!

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Prize winners visit Wolf Capital


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.

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In the summer of 2014, Bonnie Bishop from MemorialUniversity, St. John’s, Newfoundland, spent three months in Thompson and undertooka study of the public attitudes toward wolves, wolf management and the “WolfCapital of the World” initiative. Bishop’s research is part of her Master’sDegree in resource management under the guidance of Dr. Alistair Bath, anassociate professor and expert in the field of Human Dimensions (HD). HD seeksto determine and resolve conflict issues between wildlife and people, orbetween people and people. By learning how humans and wildlife interact,government and other authorities can develop wildlife management policies thatare understood and supported by the constituents they represent.

Dr. Bath was a guest speaker at Thompson’s Wolf &Carnivore Conference in Thompson in October, 2012 and held two Wolf Workshopsfor Spirit Way Inc in Thompson and Winnipeg in May, 2013. Dr. Bath has recentlyfacilitated sessions in Brazil, Alaska, and Germany. Dr. Bath became veryinterested in the idea of Thompson becoming a wolf capital and a wolf centre ofexcellence. “I’ve seen some of the efforts by Spirit Way Inc and its partners,and I don’t see that anywhere else I go to do my work,” stated Bath. “There aresome innovative things going on here, and I wanted to participate with mystudent.”

Bonnie Bishop used aself-administered quantitative research instrument applied to randomly selectedresidents of Thompson, Manitoba. Most of the items were close-ended questionsthat had been previously pre-tested to ensure reliability of attitudinalconcepts and to ensure they were logical and unambiguous.  By doing this, the accuracy anddependability of data also becomes increased. The sections of the questionnaireincluded basic demographics, attitudes, values, beliefs, fear and management,risk perception and control, economic and behavioural intention, trust andcredibility, all regarding wolves and Thompson becoming the “Wolf Capital ofthe World”. The questionnaire included 101 items. Thiscomprehensive study on wolf issues will help understand where differences andconflicts exist and guide further educational efforts and decision-making.

Participants were randomly selected from the localtelephone directory. Individuals were then randomly selected within eachhousehold and contacted by telephone to obtain a verbal acceptance to completethe questionnaire. Of the 502 questionnaires distributed, 389 were returned,yielding a response rate of 77% and the ability to generalize results to thepopulation 19 times out of 20, plus or minus 5 percentage points.

The primary research questions related to:

1)How do Thompson residents feel about wolves?

2)How do residents feel about positioning Thompson as the Wolf Capital of theWorld?

3)Do differences in attitudes exist among various groups within the community(general, youth, Aboriginal, male, female)?

4)Do the attitudes of residents reflect the goals and actions of Spirit Way Inc?


Abrief summary of results follows:

•ATTITUDE: Residents of Thompson generally havea positive attitude toward wolves. Of the respondents, 65% say they “like” or “stronglylike” wolves and more than 70% say they “like” or “strongly like” the wolfstatues located in Thompson.

• VALUES: Residents of Thompson feel that wolves have great value. Of therespondents, 77% of residents believe it is important for wolves to exist inthe Thompson area for future generations and 67% of residents believe thatwolves are a part of the Thompson culture.

• BELIEFS: 50%believe that Thompson should be the “Wolf Capital of the World” while 34% ofrespondents are indifferent and 16% believe Thompson should not be the “WolfCapital of the World”.

37% believe that it should be possible to continue trappingwolves if Thompson were to become the “Wolf Capital of the World” while 58% ofrespondents believe that wolves should be completely protected in the Thompsonarea.

• Of the respondents, 74% believe that wolves can generateeconomic opportunities for local residents and 51% of residents agree thatThompson becoming “Wolf Capital of the World” would not be a waste of money.


83% do not fear fortheir own personal health and safety regarding wolves.


• 93% agree that ifwalking in the Thompson area, there is a low chance of being attacked by a wolfand 81% agree that the risk of being physically threatened by wolves inThompson is acceptably low.


• 46% stated that theywould not donate their own money to support Thompson becoming the “Wolf Capitalof the World”. Interestingly, a large percentage of residents (approximately30%) were neutral and the remainder would donate their own monies to supportthe initiative.

Dr.Bath initially presented the results and preliminary findings to Spirit Way Inc.,City of Thompson, Chamber of Commerce, RD Parker Collegiate science studentsand at a public forum in Thompson in December, 2014. As a generalization, theresults reflected that 45-60% of the residents surveyed were slightly orstrongly in favor of all aspects of wolves and wolf initiatives, 20-30% wereneutral, and 5-15% were opposed.

PhaseTwo of Bonnie Bishop’s research will take place in the summer of 2015 and willfocus on Aboriginal and youth respondents that were under represented in thefirst research phase of the project. Data will be collected from visitors at keylocations within the community as well as on the train to Churchill. It will beinteresting to see how the opinions of these people align or differ from the Thompsongeneral public.

President Marion Morberg and the Spirit Way Inc Board wereencouraged by the first results. Morberg stated, “The strong survey resultsfrom the general public support our efforts to continue to become the WolfCapital of the World. We hope the 30% who are neutral will become supporters asthey see the economic and positive benefits for the region, and that we arepromoting and protecting wolves, which is not common in North America.”

An online copy of the complete survey results can be obtainedby contacting Spirit Way Inc. at residents who have questions or comments are highly encouraged to contactBonnie Bishop directly by e-mail orvisit her Facebook page – MUN Thompson Wolf Research.

Spirit Way Inc is now seeking other funders and partners tosecure the balance of funding to complete the 2105 research.

It is planned for Bonnie Bishop to present her HD researchresults at The Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba in October,2015 to a large international audience. This will highlight the strong level ofinterest and support for Thompson and region being recognized as the WolfCapital of the World. Spirit Way Inc. in partnership with Travel Manitoba willbe a major sponsor at this conference.

Spirit Way Inc.acknowledges the funding and support for the 2014 Human Dimensions research comingfrom numerous sources such as – Memorial University, Calm Air, Meridian Hotel,Parks Canada, Linda Markus, Partner4 Growth/Province of Manitoba, TourismSecretariat and Travel Manitoba. The communities of Thompson, Wabowden, and NisichawayasihkCree Nation provided letters of support.

Bonnie Bishop, Memorial University, St.John's, Newfoundland, CanadaBonnie Bishop, Memorial University, St.John’s, Newfoundland, Canada


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Wolf Workshops with Dr. Alistair Bath, MUN


Two Wolf Workshops entitled, “€œAre Wolves an Asset or Liability”€, were recently held in Thompson and Winnipeg and facilitated by Dr. Alistair Bath, Associate Professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Bath proceeded to go through a very comprehensive and interactive session that tackled all aspects of wolf development from identifying key issues, creating a vision for Manitoba, defining obstacles, increasing community involvement, creating a high quality product with respect for the animal, and providing opportunities in eco-tourism and sound wolf management. The exhausting day ended with listing action steps to be implemented by key people and target dates outlined.

Dr. Bath is a world expert in Human Dimensions of wildlife management. He teaches and deals with natural resource management issues, parks and protected areas planning, conflict resolution and public involvement, usually in the context of wildlife and large carnivore issues. Bath also teaches human dimensions courses in Germany and a conservation biology program in Rome, Italy.

Currently, Bath is a member of the IUCN Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe Species Group and has conducted numerous research projects throughout Europe focused on human dimensions in wolf, brown bear and lynx management issues. Bath has worked with hunters, farmers, environmentalists, biologists, shepherds, foresters and various levels of government to gain consensus on wolf management plans in Croatia and Bulgaria. He has also worked in Manitoba with various interest groups toward understanding issues regarding predation and a sustainable agricultural industry. Alistair attended the international Wolf & Carnivore Conference in Thompson in 2012 and was intrigued by the many wolf initiatives that Spirit Way had underway. He wanted to help Spirit Way Inc. build a stronger vision with action plans to implement.

Spirit Way Inc. President Marion Morberg introduced Dr. Bath to the audience and expressed her gratitude to have someone of such international experience and calibre be willing to take several days off his hectic schedule and work with Spirit Way Inc. The great level of response and broad attendance showed a tremendous interest in Thompson’€™s wolf initiatives.

Thirty four people attended from numerous organizations – Province of Manitoba /Wildlife Branch, University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg, University College of the North, Travel Manitoba, Manitoba Hydro, RD Parker Collegiate, Frontiers North, The Wildlife Society, Boreal Discovery Centre Spirit Way Inc, Thompson Unlimited, City of Thompson, Heritage North Museum, Manitoba Chambers of Commerce, Agriculture Canada, Parks Canada, Manitoba Trappers Association, Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation, and Thompson Ecotourism Centre.

Workshop results and outcomes will be provided to Spirit Way Inc in a written report from Dr. Bath. A Wolf Advisory Group will be established to represent various interest groups in education, conservation, ecotourism, research and science, and policy management. As one person stated, “I found the workshop an excellent function that brought so many aspects to light of this charismatic animal. I look forward to seeing Thompson and Manitoba becoming a world leader in the various sectors.”

Spirit Way Inc. has been invited to be a presenter at the 2013 International Wolf Symposium in Duluth, Minnesota in October, 2013. The Wolf Workshop results will provide the basis of Spirit Way Inc.’s displays and presentations in the USA. The Symposium is hosted by the International Wolf Centre, USA. The keynote address will be given by Ted Turner, Founder of CNN and the Turner Endangered Species Fund.

Photo of Thompson Wolf Workshop Attendees: L to R:

Volker Beckmann, Eugene Larocque, Dan Smith, Dr. Alistair Bath, Nicole Eleniak-Harwood, Merv Gunter, Norma Leahy, Chuck Davidson, Penny Byer, Pierce Roberts, Leigha Mellish, Colin Ferguson, Marion Morberg, Joe Garson, Wayne Francois.

MISSING – Tanna Teneycke, Betty Landego, Shane Cripps, Kathryn McNaughton


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Tremendous Wolf & Carnivore Conference!


Thank you to all the attendees and keynote speakers for attending and participating in the conference. Here is a summary of what took place and suggestions what Thompson should do to become a global Wolf Centre of Excellence!



Thompson, Manitoba’€™s first international Wolf & Carnivore Conference was attended by 98 people from Canada, USA, Finland, Japan and Russia. A broad section of organizations and interest groups were present such as universities, wildlife organizations, wolf sanctuaries, government departments from Manitoba and Wisconsin, Manitoba Trappers Association, an American native confederation, Parks Canada, Manitoba Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, Travel Manitoba, an ecotourist lodge, as well as local interested parties.


What was notable and appreciated by many was the calibre of keynote speakers from 3 countries – Dr. Nikita Ovsyanikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Dave Mech, University of Minnesota, Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Marco Musiani from University of Calgary, and Dr. Alistair Bath from Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland.

Nikita Ovsyanikov explained the declining numbers of polar bears on Wrangle Island Nature Preserve in northern Siberia. He stated that much could be attributed to human interference, more so than simply climate change. Daryll Hedman also provided interesting information on polar bear movements and denning along the coast of Hudson Bay, as well as where wolves and polar bears interact. Both had studied polar bears for decades and had learned that these carnivores were not as voracious as many believed.

Marco Musiani presented examples of wolf management solutions in different parts of the world. Alistair Bath described sessions he facilitates in resolving the human dimension aspects of wolf management. Paul Paquet spoke of the challenges in Conservation Ethics, and how humans use animals to their benefit even when they want to protect them.

Dave Mech presented a keynote address on his personal 54 years of wolf research.


Over twenty presenters covered a gamut of topics that included wolf research projects in Finland, Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. Some interesting findings in northern Manitoba were described from work being undertaken by University of Manitoba researchers funded through Manitoba Hydro.

Several university students from Finland, Japan, and Manitoba presented their wolf research work on posters that were displayed during the course of the two day conference. An audience participation session was held to outline potential research projects in Northern Manitoba.


Presenters from the International Wolf Centre in Minnesota and Living with Wolves in Idaho outlined the scope and work of their organizations in the context of the complex and often, controversial, wolf issues in the USA.

One unique topic included a presentation by the Grade 6 students at École Riverside School in Thompson on their Wolves Without Borders educational program, whereby the students collaborated with a similar school in the USA and Mexico. The students presented their results and feelings on wolves and the project. It was well received by the audience. It was evident that these youth may take up a career path in biology or wildlife science.

Ron Spence, President of the Manitoba Trappers Association, spoke passionately on his Aboriginal roots and teachings, and what the spiritual aspect of being a member of the Wolf Clan meant. Bryan Lundie captivated the audience with some wolf stories and sounds.

Dr. Rick Baydack led an audience session on identifying wolf research projects in the unstudied regions of Manitoba. As former chair of The Wildlife Society, Manitoba Chapter, Baydack also articulated the role of TWS and the pending conference that they would host in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2015. This function will attract nearly 2000 wildlife and conservation-minded people from across the globe. Manitoba could showcase its natural wildlife including its charismatic species of polar bears and wolves.

Informative Skype video sessions were held with John Benson, a graduate student at Trent University doing wolf research in Ontario, and Jess Edberg from the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.


  • Local and global wolf research
  • Potential wolf research projects
  • Youth Education
  • Carnivores and climate change
  • Human Dimensions of wildlife management
  • Government policies on wildlife management
  • Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and Perspective
  • UCN as a Wolf Centre of Excellence
  • Ecotourism
  • Public acceptance and mismanagement issues
  • Conservation Ethics
  • Creating a wolf economy in Thompson


One session facilitated by Alistair Bath focused on identifying obstacles and solutions in University College of the North becoming a recognized Wolf Centre of Excellence. Christa Dubesky, a UCN instructor, spoke on the progress towards such a Centre of Excellence. A representative of Spirit Way Inc. presented a case for Manitoba developing a “wolf economy€ based on research, education, conservation, science, ecotourism, and wolf events. A representative of the government of Manitoba described the status of wolves in the province and some of the measures they were using to reduce wolf numbers that might be contributing to a decline in the moose population.


During the highlight banquet attended by over 150 conference attendees and community leaders, Spirit Way Inc. thanked the keynotes and read a prepared media release to proclaim Thompson as a Wolf Centre of Excellence and to set a goal to become the Wolf Capital of the World by 2015. This would coordinate with the new University College of the North campus opening in 2014 in Thompson, the first phase of a world class captive wolf enclosure and study area being completed in the new Boreal Discovery Centre in Thompson, and the large Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in 2015.

Overall, conference organizers received many compliments for the breadth and scope of topics covered, the quality of the keynote speakers, and the precision of the timing and delivery of presenters. One attendee commented that this was the best conference she had ever attended (see addendum). The venue lent itself to meeting and discussing topics with anyone on a one to one basis. One visitor mentioned he could sense the buzz in the room when he walked in and everyone was focused on the sessions until the very end.

Event organizers felt it was remarkable that so many topics could be covered about one animal species. This highlights how interesting and unique wolves are in the natural environment, and how one event would draw people from around the world to a small wilderness city in northern Manitoba.

During the conference a snowfall occurred which posed problems with flights and highway travel. No one seemed overly concerned about getting home. One individual from Florida missed the first day of the conference due to passport issues. Yet, she was very excited to attend and, after a quick tour of Thompson’€™s public wolf art, was thankful that she came.

The conference manager thanked the sponsors for their financial support which allowed them to reduce the registration fee for the conference by 60%. Over a dozen local organizations and various individuals in Thompson were responsible to deliver a first class event. In conclusion, numerous ideas, suggestions, and offers to partner with Thompson were received. These will be reviewed in order to keep the interest and momentum going.


Platinum Sponsors

Province of Manitoba/Conservation SDIF, University College of the North, Manitoba Hydro, Thompson Unlimited, Vale, Travel Manitoba,

Gold Sponsors – Travel Manitoba, Calm Air

Silver Sponsors – Burntwood Hotel, Mystery Lake Hotel, Lakeview Inn & Suites, Tourism Secretariat

Bronze Sponsors – Best Western, CIBC, Greyhound Bus


Advertising for the conference was purchased in various publications, plus Facebook, posters, and emails. A great amount of positive media editorial content was received in these publications:

Winnipeg Free Press – June 8 & November 6, 2012

First Nations Voice – September 2012

La Liberte © (St. Boniface) – September 19, 2012

Thompson Citizen – October 31, 2012

Wolves (Haliburton Forest) – Summer, 2012

MBiz (Manitoba Chamber of Commerce) – June, 2012

Wildlife Professional – Fall 2012

The Telegram (St. John’s) – December 17, 2012

Stories and interviews also aired on CBC Winnipeg radio, CBC Winnipeg TV, NCI FM.


  • Thompson should host a visioning and strategic planning session with various partners in 2013 to continue the process to become the Wolf Capital of the World.
  • Identify further wolf research projects in Northern Manitoba
  • Raise funds to place radio collars on wolves for youth educational research
  • Partner with International Wolf Center, Minnesota
  • Partner with Confederated Colville Tribes, Washington state
  • Promote at International Wolf Center’s conference in 2013
  • Promote Thompson at annual The Wildlife Society conference in 2013 and 2014
  • Create an online “one stop shop” and portal for all wolf related initiatives in research, conservation, policy, tourism, education, events, art, Aboriginal perspective, etc.
  • Marjorie Huculak, Parks Canada outlined promotion and marketing initiatives to grow the
  • Wolf Centre of Excellence.
  • Declare Thompson as Wolf Capital of the World by October, 2015 in time for the large international Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Host a series of articles in the Thompson newspaper to inform and educate the Thompson public on the ecological and economic value of wolves in northern Manitoba
  • Polar bears and climate change
  • Current research – from Manitoba to Finland
  • Conservation Ethics
  • UCN as a Wolf Centre of Excellence
  • Human Dimensions of Wolf Management
  • Global wolf research by Dave Mech
  • Aboriginal perspective
  • Policy and politics
  • Social mismanagement of wolves


  • Thompson is tapping into a new industry sub-sector – the wildlife and conservation community.
  • Interest is being generated from an international audience.
  • The conference awareness and interest was very positive and advantageous for Thompson.
  • The wildlife and conservation subject helps takes focus away from negative media coverage.
  • Wolves have a media appeal that is attracting unsolicited coverage in print and social media.
  • Partnership arrangements are being offered and explored that can have economic and PR benefits.
  • Manitoba can become a world leader in wolf management.
  • Conference generated attention for UCN for research and recruitment opportunities.
  • Linking this Conference to The Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in October 2015 will keep the topic and initiatives in the forefront for the next 3 years.



  1. Get solid human dimensions data on resident attitudes, beliefs and attitudes toward management options and towards Thompson being a Wolf Capital and Centre of Excellence.
  2. Human dimensions research and applied work regarding wolf management in Manitoba. First Nation views about wolves? Do attitudes and values vary across the North toward wolves? Do attitudes differ between the south and the north?
  3. I would be very interested in doing some of this human dimensions research and getting a graduate student involved in such work.


  1. Assess status of local wolf population, including approximate number harvested each year.
  2. Establish a live-wolf exhibit in a natural enclosure as part of the new nature display.
  3. Hire a full-time person to coordinate your effort.
  4. Promote a science or zoology position at your new university.


  1. A strong aboriginal component in your Centre both in the staff and the educational/interactive aspects would be a powerful attractant.
  2. Tourists sign up for wolf tours and often don’t see them. They more easily hear them when efforts are made to howl them up. These tours are rich in information. Guides bring along wildlife biologists or game wardens for information, they bring pelts and paw molds and mock skulls for the tactile, hands-on experience and interactive learning. Tours can be rich in information while traveling through habitat, explaining how wolves interact with or affect their habitat and prey species. All this can be done on a rewarding wolf tour without seeing wolves.


  1. Develop a Strategic Business Plan for developing Thompson as the wolf centre of excellence with clearly specified objectives and achievable deadlines.
  2. Consider a ‘retreat’ where a cadre of interested biologists from government, academia, ngo’s, the Thompson community, First Nations, etc. are brought together over 2 or 3 days to help create the Plan.
  3. Bring in a professional facilitator (Denis DePape or Sheldon MacLeod offer this type of service from Winnipeg or the Organization of Wildlife Planners [] can provide this service from the US) to help achieve the proper flow and sequencing of the Plan and avoid costly roadblocks. Â Alistair Bath started us in the right direction, and could perhaps also be an appropriate facilitator.



€œI just wanted to let you know that you put on a wonderful conference. Out of all the conferences I had the opportunities to go to, this was by far the best one. Not only was the content phenomenal, but it was small enough that folks could network with each other in a comfortable setting. I just wanted to congratulate you and the other organizers for putting this on. Keep up the good work!


œHearty congratulations on a wonderful conference. There is lots of work yet to do… but what you have accomplished in Thompson regarding Wolf & Carnivore initiatives is very impressive… and those in attendance were excited, interested and surprised at the enthusiasm showed as you work toward creating a wolf centre for excellence in Thompson. Well done… I am so glad I attended.


€œI just wanted to say that I am enjoying Thompson and what is transpiring here, GREAT WORK!!!!


€œPlease extend my thanks and gratitude to all those responsible for the Thompson wolf conference. I was honoured to be invited and to participate in this wonderful event.


€œWe REALLY enjoyed our entire trip to Churchill, Thompson and the conference. You should be so happy with the results of your obvious broad and intensive efforts….you planted many seeds and spread many focused considerations for not only your city but for our fellow great carnivores as well. We hope to continue our contacts with you in the future and see great things down the road.


€œI cannot tell you how impressed I was with the conference. You did such an awesome job of pulling this together!!


€œThank you again for organizing such a wonderful, unique conference!!

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Suggested Name for NHL Team!



1. A wolf-named hockey team in a “€œwolf economy” in Manitoba is mutually beneficial and will have a strong synergy as both Brands and Product Positioning move forward.
2. A well designed wolf logo will generate much stronger Brand Equity and more recognizable Brand Imagery than any other name for Manitoba’s hockey team. The graphic image of a wolf has universal recognition and can achieve world class appeal to sell more souvenirs, jerseys, crests, etc.
3. Wolves are top predators like sharks in the ocean and lions in Africa.
4. Aboriginal people have always revered the wolf and focus on their qualities of loyalty, humility, perseverance, and a strong sense of family.
5. A wolf pack is a team unit with a leader, and each has a role to play for its survival.
6. The howling wolf’s imagery is romantic, haunting, mythical, charismatic, and world wide.
7. There are millions of people and dozens of organizations in North America and Europe that are supporters of wolves, wildlife, and conservation causes. The wolf name will create wider attention and recognition in the marketplace and will broaden the fan base.
8. Manitoba has one of the highest wolf populations in the world, and wolves roam across all rural and northern biomes.
9. Wolves are biologically essential to ensure a balanced ecosystem.
10. A Wolf Development Strategy and Discussion Paper is currently being prepared to position Manitoba as the Wolf Capital of the World in the fields of tourism, research, science, conservation, and events. Manitoba embraces wild wolves, in different biomes, captive wolves, wolf research, amazing public wolf art, the Manitoba GPS Wolf Hunt, schools in 3 countries collaborating on wolf projects, a proposed Wolf Centre of Excellence.

And wolves DO NOT attack or kill people like in Little Red Riding Hood!

Wolves are an ecological and economic asset to Manitoba. Calling the new NHL team – MANITOBA WOLVES – has huge advantages for the team and the province. It has broader value than just any name. By aligning the team’s name with current and future Wolf Development in Manitoba, the name highlights a top predator species that Manitoba has in abundance. It will help drive a new WOLF ECONOMY in the tourism, science, conservation, education, events sectors. MANITOBA WOLVES will generate an awareness and interest in the hockey team by millions of non-hockey people in North America who will get to know that Manitoba exists.


June 6, 2011.
Prepared for True North Sports and Entertainment Limited by Spirit Way Inc.

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“Wolves Without Borders” Project Started in 3 Countries!


Grade 6, École Riverside School, Thompson, Manitoba, Canada

Wolves, €”we may love or fear them, €”but some young people just want to understand them. Children at three schools in the United States, Mexico and Canada will work together on a “Wolves without Borders” project to learn about wolves in all three regions starting in March, 2011. One of the groups includes elementary students in École Riverside School in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada.

€œThe wolf is a species essential in all three countries, but misunderstood and threatened in many regions worldwide, according to Linda Markus, School District of Mystery Lake, Thompson. This collaborative project will support the participation of North American youth in the conservation of their regions and allow them to understand the global aspect and influence of their actions.

The “Wolves without Borders” idea began to percolate at a Carnivore Conference in Denver, Colorado in November 2009 when 3 people met to share their ideas and interest in wolves in their own countries. Mary Ortiz, Executive Director of IWC, USA, Volker Beckmann of Spirit Way Inc., Canada, and Juan Carlos Bravo of Naturalia, Mexico realized good ideas have no boundaries and neither should wolves. Bringing students together in a virtual project across North America offered fascinating benefits for all.

The young students in three countries live in the temperate pine-oak forests of the Sky Islands Complex surrounded by the hot, northern state of Sonora, Mexico, in the deciduous and conifer forests of Minnesota, and in Manitoba with its cold winters, boreal forests and 100,000 lakes. Although the students are separated by thousands of miles, different languages and cultures, they are excited about the opportunity to learn to work together on a common theme of wolves.

œThe International Wolf Center’s staff is excited to participate in the Wolves without Borders project. This cross-cultural learning opportunity aligns perfectly with the organization’s mission,” stated Jerritt Johnston, Director of Education. “Having the chance to collaborate with organizations in both Canada and Mexico will offer students in the Babbitt-Embarrass, Minnesota schools a tremendous experience. They will have the chance to learn about wolves, but just as importantly, they will interact with students with wonderfully diverse life experiences.

€œIn Minnesota, USA, wolf populations are growing and making a remarkable comeback. With that growth, comes increasing wolf-human interactions and the need for education about this controversial and charismatic animal. The International Wolf Center, a non-profit educational organization established in 1985, advances the survival of wolf populations around the world by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future.

The students will work in conjunction with Naturalia A.C., a civil association in Mexico that creates, develops initiatives to help conserve and restore endangered wildlife, flora and ecosystems. The Wolves without Borders project recognizes that biodiversity, and ecological processes know no political boundaries.

The Mexican students are from Agua Prieta Sonora, a border city near Douglas, Arizona. At their school, Colegio MartiniE, they study with teacher Claudia Caballero and with Naturalia’s Environmental Educator, Francisco J Garcia Durazo. The school, a privately owned bilingual education institute, will bring 25 students ages 11 and 12 to the project. Agua Prieta, is one of the closest populations to the release area for the Mexican Wolf Reintroduction Program of the Mexican Federal Government. Naturalia works to educate residents of the northern region of Sonora on wolves and their importance in interactions with other elements of the ecosystem.

In Mexico, wolves have been exterminated from the natural landscape. Only a few hundred remain in captivity. Soon a few wolves of the Mexican wolf, a subspecies of the gray wolf, will be released back into the hot, northern state of Sonora, where temperatures can reach 120˚ F in the summer. Some area residents want them returned to their natural environment, while others do not. The cultural and educational programming of Wolves without Borders will help staff meet the long term goals of helping the public to understand and coexist with predators.

The project will involve students in Thompson, Manitoba, Canada, a small wilderness city that honors the wolf. Thompson is surrounded by boreal forest, lakes, rivers, and thousands of wolves, making it the Wolf Capital of Canada. Residents experience little human-wolf conflict, since the area does not support ranching or farming. The local Cree aboriginal people have lived with and trapped wolves for hundreds of years and respect this predator and its family.

Yet, other influences are at work as new roads, mines and huge hydro-power dams with transmission lines come into play. How will wolves continue to fit into this pristine environment? How will wolves acclimate with human intrusion in decades to come? How will moose population, caribou herds and even polar bears be affected as they interact with gray wolves? In Northern Manitoba, students have much to learn, and possibly much to teach the world in sustainable wolf management.

So, what is real versus fiction about wolves? This is a question many people have wondered for generations. During the Wolves Without Borders project, the three groups of students will address this question. They will explore two distinct perspectives about wolves within each country – the mythological and factual. The findings will then be compared with fellow learners across the continent.

Native storytelling from each country will give a historical and cultural perspective on how wolves have been viewed by people in the past. Students will then embark throughout their local community to interview people about their current thoughts on wolves. Partnering with the International Wolf Center, students will learn basic wolf ecology through videoconferencing programs. With the help from local research biologists who have shared data, students will plot the locations from wild wolves tracked by radio telemetry in their area. Learners will apply their new knowledge from the wolf ecology programs by analyzing and interpreting the locations to learn factual information about wolves for yet another view on the species.

As each student learns, they will also be communicating their ideas with a buddy from each of the different countries on a web-based program – Here any viewer can see how they are getting to meet each other, sharing their day to day experiences, posting pictures and videos, and engaging in discussions about their wolf findings. Over the next few months, after comparing and contrasting both the factual and mythological views on wolves from their own perspective, students will then share their information in a presentation viewed through Skype technology with each of the different countries to see what is truly real about wolves in other locations. This exercise will provide the students a wonderful exchange of friendships, cultural experiences and honest discussion about wolves and their place in the world.

A final media release will be issued when project is complete in early June, 2011. It is anticipated that another three country project at the high school level will occur next year as these schools, separated by thousands of miles, develop closer and stronger relationships.

Grade 6, Agua Prieta, Mexico

Grad 6, Babbitt-Embarrass, Minnesota, USA


Volker Beckmann, Project Coordinator, Spirit Way Inc.
Ph. (204) 778 7434

Linda Markus, Literacy Support, School District of Mystery Lake
Ph. (204) 677 6147

Principal Rob Fisher, École Riverside School, School District of Mystery Lake
Ph 204-677-6115

Tara Johnson, Program Specialist, International Wolf Center
Ph. (218) 365 – 4695 ext. 33

Francisco J Garcia Durazo, Educación Ambiental, Naturalia A.C.
Ph. 52 (633) 338 6380, Cel: (633) 112 0233

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Wolves Without Borders


The Wolves without Borders initiative is an exciting opportunity for our Ecole Riverside school Grade 6 students to study wolves in a local and international context.  Representatives from Spirit Way Inc. and the School District of Mystery Lake met to discuss how this project will be carried out at Riverside School.

A Wolves Without Borders International 3-way conference call has taken place with us in Thompson, Helga Caballero Quiroz of Naturalia Mexico, and Jerritt Johnston of International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota to discuss the parameters.  We hope to launch the project in January, 2011. The project will be outlined on this website in the next few weeks.

I have contacted the province of Manitoba Department of Education €œInstructional Resources Unit” and acquired a collection of wolf themed books and audio supports.  I have located additional resources through the MFNERC’€™s (Manitoba First Nations Educational Resource Centre) library.  A novel study using the book €œJulie of the Wolves” , written by Jean Craighead George, is scheduled to begin soon in one grade 6 class.

I am preparing to share the details of this initiative with Heather Hunter, consultant with MERN (Manitoba Education Research Network).  I have also contacted members of the science department and administration at R D Parker Collegiate in order to create another Wolf project at the high school level. At the regular meeting of the high school science department, faculty welcomed the powerpoint presentation by Spirit Way representative, Volker Beckmann. Components of the grade 10 program align perfectly with this initiative.

The possibilities of student collaboration and interaction across three countries are very exciting!

Linda Markus
Literacy Support
School District of Mystery Lake
Thompson, Manitoba

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Finalist for Manitoba Tourism Award


The Spirit Way group was pleasantly surprised to learn that the Spirit Way attraction was a finalist in the Manitoba Tourism Award for MARKETING EXCELLENCE. The gala Awards ceremonies are hosted by Travel Manitoba and held in Winnipeg each year. The Awards date is May 26, 2010.

Spirit Way has primarly been developed by many volunteer groups in Thompson, Manitoba. This attraction did not exist five years ago! Being recognized in the same category as two of Manitoba’s major tourism attractions and initiatives who have access to huge budgets ( by comparison) and professional marketers and full time staff, is an accomplishment in itself. Whether Spirit Way could win the award is doubtful, but to our credit much thought and unique positioning has been undertaken in Thompson to get to this point.

The original nomination recognized these factors for Spirit Way:


  • From Wolves to Whales campaign was launched at The Forks in summer of 2008 by displaying 10 large decorated concrete wolf statues
  • The Spirit Way GPS Wolf Hunt was launched for geocachers to find 49 wolf statues in Winnipeg (11), Thompson (35), and Churchill (3)
  • Launch of new website€“
  • Thompson public was solicited to report live wolf sightings in the area.


  • Magazine articles and writers’€™ tour were sponsored.
  • Wolves to Whales contest was hosted and promoted by Calm Air in Canadian €œBeaver€ magazine.
  • With Travel Manitoba’s assistance, a German tour photographer visited Spirit Way in 2009, as well as writers from Society of American Travel Writers in 2008.
  • Partnered with Destination Churchill on joint ad campaigns – Wolves to Whales.
  • Advertising was done in Travel Manitoba and Manitoba publications.
  • Spirit Way posters, souvenirs, silver dollar wolf coins, etc. are sold.
  • Media conference held at The Forks in Winnipeg at Wolves to Whales campaign.
  • Facebook group Friends of Spirit Way was started.
  • A major new website was launched.
  • GPS Wolf Hunt Passports are sold in 3 cities. Geocachers must get their passport stamped in each city to be valid.
  • Partnered with Manitoba Geocaching Association to promote GPS Wolf Hunt


  • Wolves to Whales campaign began at The Forks in Winnipeg in  2008 and  expanded into Churchill with Thompson being the core. The campaign is planned to move into Minneapolis and Mexico and involve three countries in a “œWolves Without Borders”€ theme.
  • Campaign has changed Thompson’€™s image of a “€œtough northern mining town”€ image in many quarters outside of the mining and industrial sectors.
  • Campaign has created a large amount of community pride
  • Spirit Way has fostered a greater appreciation for Aboriginal art and culture
  • The Spirit Way GPS Wolf Hunt requires participants to travel the complete province to complete their geocache experience


  • Increased tourist visits and inquiries at Heritage North Museum Visitor Info Centre
  • Website hits have been growing monthly. November, 2009 stats showed 950 hits and 10,300 visits for the month. 53% of hits are coming from outside of Canada.
  • Defenders of Wildlife in Washington, D.C. invited Spirit Way Inc. to attend the biannual Carnivore Conference in Denver, Colorado in November, 2009 to tell Thompson’€™s story how Spirit Way has become an economic development success story.
  • Defenders highlighted the Thompson story in an online newsletter to 450,000 members…
  • Geocachers participated by purchasing 224 GPS Wolf Hunt booklets
  • High praise comments from geocachers who completed the GPS Wolf Hunt
  • Media articles, interviews, or photos on Spirit Way were covered in: Roots North, Voyageur, West, Currents, Great Manitoba Getaways, World Mural Book, Manitoba Business, Brandon Sun, Canwest Weekly, Travel Bug, Retired Teachers, Defenders eNews, CJOB, CBC, Destination Manitoba.
  • National Research Council, MDS, Rolls Royce, and Province of Manitoba held a ceremony in April, 2009 to announce the development of a $30 million jet engine test facility. They requested to hold the ceremony at the Spirit Way Aviation Tribute site.
  • Vandalism on Spirit Way statues or points of interest have been minimal. When the odd graffiti happens, Thompsonites have phoned their City Hall the same day to report it so the graffiti can be removed. This is evidence of community pride.
  • It has been reported that there are people/tourists taking photos of themselves in front of the Bateman wolf mural almost every day in the summer.
  • Numerous outside agencies have expressed interest and support to work with Spirit Way and Thompson on tourism initiatives.
  • Spirit Way chosen as one of 6 Manitoba FAM visits by international travel buyers during Rendezvous Canada travel show in May, 2010
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