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Chasing Waterfalls in Manitoba

05/09/2017

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

Wolf. Amanda Jacobs.

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

Pisew Falls. Travel Manitoba.

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

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

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

References:

https://www.travelmanitoba.com/listings/pisew-falls-kwasitchewan-falls/6838/
https://www.gov.mb.ca/sd/parks/popular_parks/northeast/pisew.html

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The Art of the North

11/08/2017

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Grandfathers. Wolf Sculpture. Jasyn Lucas. Wolverhampton.

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

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

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

Wolf Mural. Thompson, Manitoba.

Over 30 wolf statues guard the Spirit Way path and as you make your way along you’re sure to find the wolf spirit in you. This walkway is a Manitoba Star Attraction with its 2.5 km walking trail holding hidden treasures of historical, cultural, and artistic perspectives. It plays a key part in telling our story here in Thompson. 
Works Cited
Bizarre Beyond Belief. (2017, July 7). PangeaSeed – Sea Walls. Retrieved from Bizarre Beyond Belief: https://bizarrebeyondbelief.com/2017/07/07/pangeaseed-seawalls-churchill-manitoba

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Becoming a Certified Polar Bear Whisperer

08/08/2017

Photographer Ian Johnson. Seal River Heritage Lodge

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

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

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

Photographer Brandi Hayberg. Frontiers North Adventures

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

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

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Lodging in Thompson

03/08/2017

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

Best Western Queen Suite

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

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

http://www.bestwesternthompson.com

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

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

http://www.burntwoodhotel.com/

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

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

 http://www.daysinn.ca

Days Inn King Suite

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

Book by phone and use discount code: WOLF2017   

http://www.meridianhotelthompson.ca/

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

Conference rate: 89$/night for 2 people.

https://friulirentals.com/

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

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

https://www.lakeviewhotels.com/

Lakeview Inn Suites

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

http://www.mysterylakehotel.ca

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

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

http://www.qualityinnthompson.com

Quality Inn King Suite

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

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Churchill Tundra Tour – Wolf and Carnivore Conference

28/07/2017

We wanted to add something truly unique to our Wolf and Carnivore Conference coming up on October 18. The day before attending the conference, you can partake in an exclusive polar bear tour with Frontier’s North in Churchill, Manitoba. Flying out of Thompson, you will be met at the Churchill airport and whisked away to watch polar bears roam along the Hudson Bay coast.

Polar bears by Brian Wilson
Polar bear with Frontier’s North Adventures

If you’ve never been in a Tundra Buggy the interior resembles a large bus, but they feel akin to an overly spacious train car as the vehicles sway gently crawling over the tundra. They have specific routes they take to minimize damage to the landscape as tundra is a very fragile bed. On the Tundra Buggy, your expert Frontier’s North guide will keep you entertained with fun facts and stories about Churchill and its wildlife; all while pointing out the animals around you. While on the buggy you will have a chance to see polar bears, Arctic hares, Arctic foxes, red foxes, ptarmigan and maybe even a caribou. 

Polar bear yoga. Photo by Lydia Attinger. Seal River Heritage Lodge

For lunch you will have a truly northern picnic, overlooking the Hudson Bay and more than likely, a polar bear or two lounging about. The food is hearty and delicious, catered by Tundra Inn restaurant, a favourite among many of the locals. Which means you’re eating Churchill approved food! At the end of the day you will be spirited away to the inimitable town of Churchill to do a little shopping, view some of the mesmerizing Sea Walls murals that freshly decorate the town, and enjoy a gorgeous meal before boarding the plane back to Thompson for the conference the next day.

A day of epic adventure that you’re sure to enjoy! Register today to take advantage of our early bird discount which ends July 31. 

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Wildlife Whisperers: Coming October 2017

19/07/2017

Wolf Conference logo

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

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

DAVID MECH

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

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

NIKITA OVSYANIKOV 

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

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

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

ERIN McCLOSKEY

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

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

GILBERT PROULX

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

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

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

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Wolf Talk – Wolf and Carnivore Conference

17/07/2017

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

Photo credit: Robert Postma – Nanuk Polar Bear Lodge

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

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

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

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

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

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Wolves in wolves.co.uk

29/04/2017

WOLF NEWS #10

 

In the 1500s Wolverhampton, England was a small town in the midst of a sheep farming region. Over the centuries it expanded from being in the woollen trade into a bustling and active industrial centre of about 250,000 people. 

In 2015, Outside Centre, a disability arts organization in Wolverhampton, decided to undertake a public statue campaign to draw 100,000 tourists to the community, build community pride, and raise money for their organization. As the community’s short name had become “Wolves” and their soccer theam was also called Wolves, they decided to create wolf statues, Thus, was launched the “Wolves in Wolves” campaign… www.wolvesinwolves.co.uk

That same year, Dr. Dave Mech, one of the founders of the International Wolf Center in Minneapolis, USA, forwarded the statue story from the Wolverhampton Express and Star newspaper to Volker Beckmann, Project Director of Spirit Way Inc. After a short deliberation among Board members, Beckmann contacted Dr. Paul Darke, the director of Outside Centre, and outlined all the wolf initiatives underway in Thompson Manitoba. A package of information was mailed to Darke with the offer to work together in their campaign. As Thompson was being recognized as the Wolf Capital of the World and Spirit Way Inc. had already created over 50 wolf statues across Manitoba, there were several mutual benefits between a small community in the wilderness in Canada and a large industrial centre in England. 

  The attached photo shows Darke wearing Thompson’s Wolf Capital cap In front of their local Wolves Superstore. The Spirit Way Board felt that was an open and friendly gesture to collaborate. Darke invited Spirit Way to send an artist to Wolverhampton to paint two of their 30 statues. The remainder would be painted by celebrities who lived in Wolves. The campaign would last from June until September. 

Creative possibilities on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean began to gel over the next 18 months. During several Skype sessions, Darke made suggestions to bolster the program and SWI’s participation. At the same time, the Canadian government announced a campaign to celebrate Canada’s 150th Anniversary in 2017. Spirit Way

 felt this would be the ideal time to promote Northern Manitoba under the theme of “Celebrating Canada’s Wildlife and Wilderness”.

President Marion Morberg and Volker Beckmann met with Travel Manitoba to outline a creative promotional campaign in Wolverhampton and London, England. Initially the goal was to have a display and wolf statues at the Canadian High Commission in Trafalgar Square, downtown London. The logistics of that became too cumbersome, and after numerous consultations the ideal location for a painted wolf statue was found at Charing Cross Station. This extremely busy railway station has a footfall of more than 4 million people a month!

One hurdle was the astronomical cost for £50,000 a month to lease a space at Charing Cross. After several months of discussion and Darke’s visit to London to speak to management in person, the station manager offered the space to Spirit Way Inc. for free for one month!

With the potential to reach a tremendous number of people in England, Morberg and Beckmann contacted several potential partners in Winnipeg, Thompson  and Churchill. All partners immediately saw the opportunity to promote northern Manitoba to an international audience.

Beckmann and Morberg devised a promotion to hold a contest and give away a $30,000, twelve day prize trip to Manitoba. The entry would require people to take a selfie near the wolf statue and share it on social media. The statues will be painted by Jasyn Lucas from Thompson. The artistic theme will highlight Canada’s wildlife and wilderness and display wolves, polar bears, and northern lights. One statue will reflect

 the seven indigenous teachings. Large banners will hang from the ceiling to draw people to the statue. A video monitor will show a continuous three minute promotion of northern Manitoba and how to enter the contest. The expectations are that hundreds, if not thousands of people will enter the contest which will lead to further promotion of Thompson’s Wolf and Carnivore Conference and AuroraFest this autumn. 

Morberg, Beckmann, and Lucas will be heading to England for 10 days in mid May for art preparation, video and display set-ups, statue installation, media interviews, launch ceremonies, public relations and general promotion for Thompson. The campaign in London will end in July, when the statues will be transferred to Wolverhampton. The contest and promotion will continue until September.

After the campaign, Paul Darke will gift one statue to Spirit Way Inc. and have it flown to a military base in Manitoba by the Royal Air Force. The Thompson Chamber of Commerce is planning to invite a business group from Wolverhampton to visit Thompson in the following year for a “Wolves, Polar Bears, and Northern Lights Tour”.

Corporate sponsors and funders have responded in a very positive manner and have contributed over $100,000 to this promotion campaign as the UK has been identified as one of the top target markets for Travel Manitoba. Canada is also rated as the top country in the world to visit in 2017. These trends align themselves with this innovative promotion campaign for Thompson.

When Beckmann was asked why this was necessary, he stated, “For decades Thompson has wondered how to tap into thousands of visitors who pass by annually

 on their way to Churchill. These people are wildlife viewers who are also interested to learn about wolves and northern lights. The UK campaign with support of corporate partners is the smart and timely thing to do. We jumped at the chance.”

President Morberg reiterated that we must thank the travel partners who have donated to this project such as Travel Manitoba, Churchill Wild, Calm Air, Winnipeg and Thompson Airport Authorities, Frontiers North, and Via Rail that see the benefit of raising Thompson and Churchill’s profile overseas for wildlife and wilderness experiences to our north. 

“We were also happy to see that the City of Thompson finally was able to contribute”, Morberg stated, and continued, “There are legacy benefits for Thompson that will come as the year goes by. The Provincial government has made tourism and economic development a priority in the North. After years of effort by a group of volunteers, we have prepared the most market-ready tourism initiative that align with what private partners and the government are looking for.”

April 23, 2017

 

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WOLVES & PUBLIC PERCEPTIONS

31/03/2017

WOLF NEWS #9

By Bonnie Bishop.

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

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

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

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

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

To receive a copy of research reports, workshop reports, or more information about this research, individuals can contact Bonnie Bishop at bbish@mun.ca or Spirit Way Inc. at thompsonspiritway@gmail.com.

 

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WOLVES AND A WILDLIFE FILMMAKER

02/02/2017

WOLF NEWS #8

Matt and Timber

Matt Paproski is an independent, wildlife filmmaker based in Drumheller, Alberta with a passion for animals including his two wolves he rescued from a game hunting farm. He has raised them as pups and works with them as movie actor wolves in the film industry and for educational purposes. His company, Starland Studios, has produced and distributes a TV series, Wildlife Wranglers, and film, Cougar Crossings. His wildlife films not only require government permits to house and travel with his animals, but demand special animal care procedures to ensure safety for all concerned and the utmost diligence and respect for his treasured animals.

In early 2015, Paproski read in the news that Thompson was being labeled as the Wolf Capital of the World. After some preliminary investigation, he reached out to Spirit Way Inc. (SWI) to form an alliance that could be beneficial in fulfilling the destiny of his two wolves.

After a few months of introductory emails, Paproski learned that Spirit Way had almost completed a large state-of-the-art wolf habitat in a natural setting at the Boreal Discovery Centre. As no wolves were yet living in the 1 1/4 acre space, SWI felt it would be an appropriate time to invite the filmmaker to Thompson to explore possibilities. Paproski arrived at same time that actor and musician Tom Jackson was in Thompson for a benefit concert for the Wolf Capital of the World campaign.

Thanks to complimentary passes from Calm Air and hotel room and meals provided by the Meridian Hotel, Paproski was hosted for several days in Thompson. The film maker said he was impressed with the passionate SWI volunteers he met who were devoting a large amount of time in helping their community. The hospitable nature of the residents in this northern city quickly shone through.

While Paproski was in town, SWI board members kept him very busy. He did some candid filming of the Tom Jackson concert, toured the Boreal Discovery Centre, showed some of his company’s films at a screening, spoke at elementary schools to classes of young students, was interviewed by CBC North and the local newspaper, and spoke to Thompson Unlimited, the local economic development corporation, about the possibilities of a launching a wildlife film making industry in Thompson. For SWI directors, this was a new area of interest and economic development that had never been considered in Thompson before. Paproski made reference to the many wildlife film festivals world wide and the huge market for such films. He would be willing to organize such a film festival in Thompson.

A preliminary plan emerged to prepare a documentary film, ‘The Journey of Two Wolves’, about Paproski’s wolves, Timber and Aurora, that could visit Thompson and become ambassadors for the Wolf Capital of the World. By coincidence, “Timber” is the same name as the SWI mascot! A unique, educational wolf film could be broadcast on television and the internet and draw attention to Thompson in the wildlife film market. Key messaging would communicate that Thompson’s willingness to co-exist with wolves can help develop eco-tourism and the economy, and set a strong example to the world. As an apex predator species, undisturbed wolves can reinforce the need for protection of the Canadian boreal forest, the largest intact ecosystem in the world. Negative and wrongful issues that malign wolves could be addressed correctly in the film to help overcome long standing myths and fears. A strong educational slant would align with Spirit Way’s intention to develop a Best Practices model for all things wolf and cover wolf issues such as captivity, poaching, trapping, trophy and helicopter hunting. Other positive angles for a northern film could be made on behalf of animals, aboriginal peoples, the environment, and the community. It became obvious there was great potential for more than one film and even a series of TV and online documentaries.

Last year, President of SWI, Marion Morberg and Paproski began marketing the film project at the annual On-Screen Manitoba All Access Forum held in Winnipeg. They met with potential broadcasters and co-production partners that could assist in getting a wolf film released to the international market and at film festivals. Morberg quickly recognized that more discussion should happen with Thompson and industry players including Manitoba Film about developing a media industry in the North. While in Winnipeg, Morberg and Paproski met with Phil Lafontaine, the former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. He was willing to assist and advocate how helping wolves would be beneficial for northerners.

Paproski also introduced Morberg to his associate Dr. Ken MacQuisten, owner of Grouse Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Dr. MacQuisten provided very helpful advice regarding rescued wolves, as well as how SWI could take advantage of the wildlife film industry.

Recently, SWI submitted a proposal for a Canada 150th Anniversary grant to “Celebrate Canada’s Wildlife & Wilderness” that would include eight days of events, called Wild Borealis. Planned activities would include bringing Aurora and Timber to Thompson for public engagement, educational experiences at schools and special events, and film making in the Wolf Capital of the World. A wolf pack’s complex intelligence and social behavior could be studied by local volunteers and youth to learn how to care for rescued animals in captivity.

Paproski expressed optimism to be invited to Thompson for the 150th Anniversary in the fall with animal handler, Laura Dougan, and his camera crew. His team would travel across many scenic landscapes from the Badlands in Alberta to the boreal forest of northern Manitoba. The trip would be documented for sharing on social media and a future documentary wolf film.

Paproski’s smiled when his creative mind suggested that community and indigenous leaders could be invited to gather for a special closing ceremony at Thompson’s 150th celebrations and gatherings. Great reverence could be made to Timber, Aurora, and all wolves in the north, as indigenous people have always held high respect for this animal. After seeing first hand the new wolf habitat at the Boreal Discovery Centre, Paproski remarked, “This is the best space I have seen in Canada. Some day when Timber and Aurora are ready to retire, it might be a great place for them to visit or stay in the Wolf Capital of the World.”

 

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