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Since Dr.Alistair Bath, Professor of Geography, from Memorial University, Newfoundland, attended Thompson’s first international Wolf and Carnivore Conference in 2012 as a keynote speaker, Spirit Way Inc. (SWI) has been communicating with Canadian universities on wolf related projects. Dr. Bath became intrigued with a small city in northern Manitoba where there are no major wolf/human conflicts and residents are willing to co-exist with the top predator in the boreal forest.

“I don’t see this anywhere in the world, where I have facilitated sessions in the field of human dimensions, that in Thompson people and businesses are supporting the drive to be the Wolf Capital of the World,” stated Dr. Bath. One of Bath’s Master degree students, Bonnie Bishop, started her thesis work on researching the perception of Thompsonites toward wolves. Over 700 surveys with more than 100 questions were delivered at random to residents. The feedback showed a majority base of support for wolves in general and the idea of developing a Wolf Centre of Excellence. Bishop’s three year thesis will be completed in late 2016.

Ulf Runesson is the dean of the faculty of Natural Resources Management at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He met some of the SWI contingent at the Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in October 2015. Runesson’s faculty team of students had a display of drones that they design and build for government and industry research projects. Discussions with Volker Beckmann, volunteer project director of SWI, soon led to ideas for wildlife research in Northern  Manitoba, that has been labeled as a “researcher’s dream world” by author Erin McCloskey (“Wolves in Canada”). Very little is known about wolves in the North regarding population densities, diet, movement, prey/predator relationships, etc. Dr. Paul Paquet, one of Canada’s foremost biologists and a wolf expert and researcher, has stated that there is very little scientific knowledge about wolves in northern Manitoba. He felt it would important to gather base data about prey and predators while the North’s boreal forest was still in a pristine state, and before all-weather roads, hydro dam electrical corridors, and climate change might change animal movements forever. Indigenous traditional knowledge may no longer apply in the future, he commented.

Dean Runesson saw the opportunity and took it back to his classes at Lakehead U. A few phone calls and Skype sessions later with Volker Beckmann and Daryll Hedman, Northern Wildlife Manager, several Master degree students expressed their interest in wolf research. Discussions were held with Hedman for guidance and approval. Larissa Hutton will now be the main university student to come to Thompson in early winter to determine wolves and moose populations using thermal imagery. The objective is to determine wolf density and prey/predator ratio around the Thompson area, and that compares to other regions in Canada where moose are in decline.

Discussions have been held with professors at several Manitoba universities about more research projects for under and post graduate students. In recent weeks three students in the Environmental Science and Studies Program at the University of Manitoba have contacted Spirit Way Inc. to undertake a wolf project in the Thompson area. Their professors, Dr. Rick Baydack and Dr. Dave Walker, were involved in some of the first wolf research in northern Manitoba for Manitoba Hydro during 2010-12.

These students are interested in studying wolf population and dynamics in the Thompson region and how this could relate to eco-tourism opportunities. All big game including wolves and the hunting or trapping thereof in Manitoba is managed by the Department of Sustainable Development. Currently, the Province is also doing wolf research in eastern Manitoba to determine interaction between wolf and moose in the region.

Spirit Way Inc.  is currently fund raising to launch a wolf and polar bear research project along the coast of Hudson Bay that would be of interest to international researchers. Wolf biologists at the University of Winnipeg and Calgary have expressed interest in this research because of the unique dynamics between two megafauna that is not well understood.

As Thompson and the surrounding boreal forest region become recognized for its study, research, and education opportunities, it will become an important hub for wildlife and environmental knowledge and continued learning. Spirit Way Inc.’s volunteer Project Director, Volker Beckmann, explained a long term goal is to develop a best practices model for “all things wolf” that would be unique in the wildlife and conservation sector world wide.

“Wolves are being hunted for sport and culled in many American states and Canadian provinces.” said Beckmann. “That does not happen in northern Manitoba because people have a more positive attitude towards wolves”. This co-existance acceptance is what continues to attract attention from outside universities and wildlife organizations to northern Manitoba.


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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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Spirit Way Initiatives for 2013


Spirit Way Inc was formed in 2004 and has made incredible progress with creating a walkway with points of interest that highlight unique aspects of Thompson. It’s now recognized as a Manitoba Star Attraction and listed as one of the “Top 20 Places to Visit in Manitoba”.

Each year the volunteer Board raises funds, plans and manages events, programs, and attractions. Last year an extremely successful Wolf & Carnivore Conference was held with nearly 100 attendees from 5 countries and some of the top wolf experts in the world. Out of that has come several actions and recommendations to move forward in developing a wolf economy in Manitoba. Plus a great deal of support from respected people and organizations.

Many jurisdictions around the world tried to exterminate their wolves, and very complex issues are still brewing in the FOR and AGAINST wolf camps. Northern Manitoba has been fortunate and never had to deal with these controversial issues. Thompson and Manitoba can set an example to the world in best practises with wolf management policy, ecotourism, conservation and education. We will partner with other wolf and wildlife organizations to make it so.

This year, Spirit Way Inc, will focus on the following initiatives to continue to bring good PR for Thompson:


Targeted at kids from 2 to 12 years of age, it will be a wonderful play and exercise area along the Spirit Way walkway. Total project costs are estimated at $200,000. Drawings will be released in May, 2013.

Spirit Way Inc and Thompson Lions Club will manage the project and seek other partners over the next 2 summers to complete it. The Thompson Boys and Girls Club will be involved. Other groups and the public are invited to contact us to learn more or to help with the many facets that are involved from landscaping, building structures, fabricating, public art, etc. Go to CONTACT US or call any SWI Board member.


This project has been on hold since 2010, as the former Thompson Zoo is now being resurrected as the BDC. A first class wolf enclosure will be developed this year that will be 30 times larger that the original wolf cage built in the 1980s with many new features to stimulate and keep wolves healthy and stress free. Very young wolf pups will come from a breeding area in Ontario when the time comes in 2014. Some $247,000 has been raised for this project.


Many recommendations came out of the Wolf Conference in 2012. Partnerships and collaboration are on-going with Canadian and American stakeholders such as universities, wildlife and wolf organizations, trappers, eco-tourism interests, native agencies, development corporations, etc. Spirit Way Inc has been invited to present at the International Wolf Centre’s Wolf Conference in Duluth, Minnesota in October, 2013. Strategic planning sessions are being organized. More details will be provided as time progresses. If you have interest in any capacity of Wolf Conservation, Education, Research, Tourism, Art and Culture, Events… please contact us through Facebook, Thompson Spirit Way, or go to CONTACT US at the bottom of the Home Page.


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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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Wolf Park on Hold


After two years of work by Spirit Way Inc’s (SWI) volunteer ad hoc committee (Marion Morberg, Volker Beckmann, Dr. Ken Bingham, Wayne Hall, Tom O’Brien, Penny Byer), Mayor Johnston presented SWI a Letter of Understanding regarding the proposed Wolf Park, four weeks before construction was to start, that was not acceptable. Further discussion will be required to see if this project can be resumed.

SWI began this initiative 2 years ago with the blessing of Mayor Tim Johnston and Oswald Sawh, Councillor and City rep on the Zoo Society. During the past 18 months over a dozen grant applications and funding presentations were made to different agencies. Six different zoo experts and wolf biologists from Canada and the USA were invited to Thompson with Calm Air’s assistance to look at the Thompson Zoo and the current wolf enclosure that was constructed by the Thompson Rotary Club 27 years ago. It no longer meets the animal care standards of today.

Over 20 meetings were held with interested parties including the Zoo Director and University College of the North who are very interested in becoming a Centre of Wolf Excellence. UCN students could utilize the Zoo and Wolf Park which will be located adjacent to the pending new campus announced by the Province of Manitoba. Science studies and research projects could be undertaken at the Zoo. Students could do internships and work experiences at the Wolf Park. Elderhostel learning vacations are a definite possibility. The UCN carpentry class was prepared to do framing and roofing for a 1600 sq ft viewing building that would allow class room study of the wolves during winter months when their fur coats are at their finest.

Doug Ross, retired Director from the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, was contracted by SWI to assist in designing the habitat space. A wolf pack requires unique features to keep the animals content and stress free. Without that, wolves will pace and can become aggressive to each other and to zoo handlers. Many details were considered. Laurie Lamb, landscape architect, was hired to design a one acre space that would house 3-4 wolves of the same genetic pool and a retirement area for the two current wolves that would be 6 times larger than what they have now. Other wolf parks in Canada and the USA were visited including the wolf enclosure at the Denver Zoo and input sought to achieve a first class facility for Thompson. It was felt that the Thompson Wolf Park would be the finest in Canada.

The total project costs were estimated to be $253,000 and over $200,000 has been raised to date including support and funds by Thompson Rotary Club, Community Places, Manitoba Community Services Council, Thompson Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and private donations. A business plan would be required to operate a viable Wolf Park that would focus on science, conservation and tourism interests. A new governance model would need to be developed that would ensure opportunities for success and allow the Wolf Park to become an integral component of a much broader plan for Thompson to become the Wolf Capital of Canada and link with Churchill as Polar Bear Capital of the World.

Thompson is situated in the middle of wilderness boreal forest. Manitoba has some estimated 6000 wolves that have had very limited study. The opportunities for scientific research and eco-tourism initiatives are significant. Research projects, wolf conferences, learning vacations, wolf tours and study, etc are a few areas of development that could be undertaken. Manitoba could become a world leader in wolf management and attract interest from around the world. Canada’s foremost wolf biologist, Dr. Paul Paquet, from the University of Calgary and Saskatchewan has visited Thompson and expressed interest to work with UCN on wolf related research.

Thompson has all the raw ingredients to develop a wolf “industry”. No other place in the world has developed such amazing wolf art such as a 86 ft high Robert Bateman wolf mural, 49 painted wolf statues, the start of Canada’s largest rock sculpture, and a GPS wolf statue hunt. There are many irons in the fire. More than a dozen organizations in Canada, USA and Mexico have expressed interest in working with Thompson on wolf initiatives that involve tourism or science. Yet, all of this is contingent on a new, enlarged and enhanced wolf park. We hope to resolves these issues soon. Stay tuned!

Are you interested in helping us in some capacity… construction? fundraising? research? art or cultural initiatives? promotion? Please contact us through this website wherever you are.

In the Spirit!

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Spirit Way Inc Active This Summer


As summer arrives in the North, residents and visitors look forward to the long warm days. Thompson is a summer and winter playground and there are a zillion things to do in the surrounding pristine wilderness.

Friends of Spirit Way have met to discuss more landscaping and other beautification and maintenance tasks to be undertaken this summer. A recent presentation was made to City Council this May that outlined the plans for the new Wolf Park at the Thompson Zoo. This would be Canada’s finest. More funds need to be raised and more volunteers are needed to complete the project by 2011. Stay tuned for details here.

The goal is to invite 100 people to become official FRIENDS. These are people who are proud of their community and can be Thompson Ambassadors. You can do as little or as much as  you like. Contact us for information. We will reward you with a very special pin.

Monthly public guided walking tours of Spirit Way will be offered so anyone can learn and enjoy the many unique features and points of interest along the pathway.

Our Facebook group is growing and we’d like to make invite more people to join with their ideas how to improve on Spirit Way.

The Firefighter Tribute statue will be completed this summer – lighting, landscaping, trees, a pathway to the Bailey Bridge are all planned for this year. If you can help, let us know.

Have a great summer, and visit us here again!

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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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