WOLF NEWS #7
At the Wildlife Society Conference, held in Winnipeg in October, 2015, members of Spirit Way Inc. and the Boreal Discovery Centre from Thompson promoted their plans and programs to a record attendance of 1560 people. A few university students who visited the Wolf Capital of the World display booth were dismayed to see a GPS wolf “hunt” in Thompson, until they learned that Spirit Way Inc. was promoting a hunt for wolf statues!
The idea for the Spirit Way Wolf Hunt grew out of the Spirit Way project. Spirit Way is a two-kilometer long “Manitoba Star Attraction”. This easy walk takes you past 17 unique points of interest that have won awards for Spirit Way and made it one of Travel Manitoba’s “Top 20 Places to Visit in Manitoba”.
The GPS Wolf Hunt was conceived by Volker Beckmann who designed a small passport booklet that show the statues produced by the Spirit Way group. Each statue had been sponsored by a company or agency for $5000. The statues are identical in shape but painted completely differently by various artists. The statues are 7.5 feet tall and made of solid concrete weighing 5500 lbs. The prototype was shaped from styrofoam by award winning muralist Charles Johnston of Winnipeg. A fiberglas mold was then prepared by Peter Wall of Roland, Manitoba. Gerry Derocquigny of Lorette, Manitoba, a retired concrete craftsman, gets each statue poured and shipped to Thompson once the order is received.
By 2009, Spirit Way had moved and positioned the heavy 49 wolf statues in three cities – Winnipeg, Thompson, and Churchill, and the GPS Wolf Hunt was launched. This Hunt is a form of geocaching, which is a popular pastime requiring the use of a global positioning system (GPS) to locate caches in precise locations. Most geocaches contain small objects which you either record in a log book or exchange for a small object of your own. The Spirit Way GPS Wolf Hunt requires that hunters simply locate 49 wolves across Manitoba. “It’s a unique way to combine the quickly-developing past time of geocaching, with an appreciation for art and the adventure of visiting parts of Manitoba you might otherwise not see,” said Beckmann.
The statue hunt requires the person to purchase a GPS Wolf Hunt booklet for $5 from a vendor in each city. They must check the website, www.thompsonspiritway.ca, to obtain the latest GPS coordinates, as some statues have been moved since the passport was printed. The mission is to find each statue using the GPS coordinates and enter the statue’s name/title into the booklet. They must get all the titles correct and have that confirmed in each city by a special rubber stamp in their passport. Once all three rubber-stamped impressions are entered, they have completed their hunt that has taken them 1000 miles from the prairies around Winnipeg to the boreal forest around Thompson to the tundra at Churchill. It is a fun and challenging travel adventure across Manitoba!
The last step is to simply send their contact information to the website. A personalized MASTER WOLF TRACKER PDF certificate is sent via email. It is signed by all mayors of Thompson, Winnipeg and Churchill. The recipients can print their certificate, frame it, and hang it on a wall as many do. Their name is also posted on the website as a Master Wolf Tracker.
Stan and Lynne Ritz of Winnipeg were the world’s first GPS Master Wolf Trackers. “This was an awesome adventure and we really enjoyed the wolf hunt,’ said Stan Ritz. “Our adventure left us with memories to last a lifetime.” The couple found all the wolves in Winnipeg before driving to Thompson and boarding the train to Churchill. Many trackers are visitors from all parts of North America. One couple were touring from Peru, South America, and found all 49 statues to be recognized as Master Wolf Trackers. One family from Flin Flon had their children take turns writing the wolf’s name into their booklet. Mom said, “The kids were having a blast running to each statue to see who could reach it first. We giggled and laughed a lot. The hunt is a fun thing to do as a family.”
WOLF NEWS #6
(This was an editorial posted by Rob Schultz in the International Wolf magazine, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.)
Recently I traveled to Thompson, Manitoba. Surrounded by boreal forest, this northern mining community is known for its harsh winters—with temperatures falling so low that automobile and aircraft engine manufacturers test their products there in some of the world’s most extreme weather conditions. It’s the most northern Canadian city connected by road in the region, where civilization ends and an untamed wilderness begins.
I was invited by Spirit Way Inc., a community based non-profit organization, working to build Thompson as the Wolf Capital of the World. This volunteer group has raised over $1 million for a variety of wolf projects. Arriving in Thompson, it’s clear to me that the people who live here have tremendous respect and appreciation for wolves. Streets and a walking path called “Spirit Way” are lined with statues of wolves painted by local artists, a 10-story apartment building proudly overlooks the city sporting a massive lighted mural of a wolf, and Spirit Way Inc.’s mascot is a spirited gray wolf named “Timber.” Even two streets in town are called Wolf Street and Wolf Street!
Despite Manitoba laws that allow for the hunting of wolves from August through March as part of a big game (moose, elk, caribou) license, a flourishing wolf population surrounds the city. Sightings of wolves are common, and few of the people I spoke with could understand why anyone would want to hunt these magnificent animals. On Spirit Way’s website, wwww.thompsonspiritway.ca, Thompson residents and tourists can post photos and videos of their wolf sightings. Each month a cash prize is offered for the best wolf photo. There are some remarkable photos to prove that wolves and wolf packs roam in this region of northern Manitoba. Spirit Way’s gamut of wolf projects underway from public art, to a wolf statue GPS hunt, to youth education, to public engagement, etc. allows this community to live up to its claim of being the “Wolf Capital of the World.”
What makes Thompson so different from other wolf-rich environs? The remoteness of the region and its harsh living conditions undoubtedly prevent the wolf-human conflict that commonly results from livestock and human population densities.
But credit also needs to be given to Spirit Way Inc. which has raised more than $2 million to promote eco-tourism and cultural heritage in Thompson. Its work appears to be changing local attitudes toward wolves by teaching people to value the wolf as an important natural resource.
Thompson’s celebration of the wolf is an excellent example of the environmental and economic success that can be achieved when we work to enrich public attitudes toward wolves through education. While local culture and remoteness give this community an advantage, its
success has been fueled by committed volunteers and community leaders who teach respect and understanding of the important role wolves play in a balanced environment. A message that the world and wildlife community should hear.
International Wolf Center
Ely, Minnesota, USA
MISSION: The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future
WOLF NEWS #5
In February 2012, a team of people from Spirit Way Inc, University College of the North, Travel Manitoba, The Wildlife Society/Manitoba and Frontiers North Adventures met with government ministers in Winnipeg to present a Discussion Paper entitled “Building a Wolf Economy”. It was prepared after Thompson Unlimited had funded a Feasibility Study on Thompson as the Wolf Capital of Canada. The Discussion Paper outlined economic development considerations and opportunities in various sectors from wolf research, education, science, policy, art and culture, events, and eco-tourism.
Wolves are apex predators and play an important role in nature so that their prey do not overwhelm the ecosystem. Studies in Isle Royale National Park and Yellowstone National Park have shown the detrimental effect when wolves are removed from the landscape by arbitrary hunting or culling programs.
After wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone in the late 1990s, massive numbers of visitors traveled to the park to learn about and try to get a glimpse of wolves. In 2005 an economic study showed that 96,000 visitors came to the Yellowstone to see wolves and spent some $35 million for travel, accommodation, and meals, etc. In Ely, Minnesota, the International Wolf Center with its captive wolves attracts over 40,000 visitors a year and supports over 60 full and part time jobs in a community of 3500 people. There are over 70 wolf parks in North America, and the public’s fascination with wolves can literally create an industry.
Tourism is the 4th largest industry in the world. Did you know tourism in Manitoba is a $1.6 billion dollar industry each year with 23,5000 tourism jobs? Tourism generates more tax revenues for the Province of Manitoba than wheat! At a local level, every dollar spent by a visitor multiplies four times as the money circulates in the community.
In Thompson, the Heritage North Museum receives between 3000 to 4000 signatures in their guestbook each year from people from Asia, South America, Australia, Europe, United States and Canada. The majority of the signatures are from tourists traveling by train to and from Churchill. This is a captive audience that Thompson has wondered for decades how to break into and hold them before or after their visit to Churchill.
Thompson is positioned centrally in Manitoba, directly in the path of these wildlife lovers flocking to Churchill to see polar bears or beluga whales. Each July and August, over 12,000 people view, kayak, and swim with thousands of beluga whales in Hudson Bay. In October and November, 18,000+ tourists visit Churchill to experience polar bears.
It is a misconception that tourists only want to visit the “big city”. Most tourism in our area happens right in our own back yard. The appetite for unique travel experiences is growing. The most successful destinations are no longer focusing on a list of things to see and do, but rather, publishing compelling stories and experiences that resonate with travelers. www.ManitobaHot.com is such a site offering tourism content in fun, new ways.
As Northerners, we live and enjoy everything that our accessible wilderness offers. We know there are great experiences to be had and great stories to tell. We have a lot to offer!
Tourism is everybody’s business as it can benefit the community at large and generates pride when residents showcase their community’s assets. When we all work together, big things can be accomplished. Tourism depends on the support of the entire community to be successful. From local residents who volunteer their time, businesses that collaborate on development initiatives and governments that provide financial support – it takes every member of a region to stand together. This is an exciting time as the Government of Manitoba is working with the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce and Travel Manitoba to invest in tourism industry in the province.
Regional tourism associations need community support and leadership. Our strengths will be in international destination readiness, signage, transportation and infrastructure. Air access is one of the most important factors. Starting in the summer of 2015 WestJet offers a direct flight from Gatwick Airport, London, England to Winnipeg. This is the equivalent of a super highway from Europe to our door in Manitoba! Thompson can now easily benefit from same day travel for wildlife adventurers who wish to visit our region from overseas. Currently, Spirit Way Inc. and Travel Manitoba are working on a major promotion campaign in England in 2017 to promote the Wolf Capital and Polar Bear Capital that will take advantage of that new airline corridor.
There are other seeds in place that will grow fruit in the short term. Did you know Thompson and region have 3 Manitoba Star Attractions? They are the Heritage North Museum, Pisew Falls and Spirit Way, a 2.5 km walking and biking pathway with 17 Points of Interest that has won 4 awards, and is one of the top 20 places to visit in Manitoba. Star Attractions are what visitors want to see and experience, preferably with informed and hospitable tour guides who can show the sites and tell the good stories.
One of the Points of Interest along the Spirit Way is a gigantic ten story wolf mural which has become Thompson’s landmark and has received international attention. It was the only mural in Canada chosen for a World Book of Murals in 2008. Thereafter, Spirit Way Inc. developed a campaign to position Thompson as the Wolf Capital of the World and to develop best practices “in all things wolf”. Spirit Way Inc. is working with Frontier North Adventures to offer a Wolf Howl Walk in August 2017 for their guests who will stop in Thompson for two days along with their visit to Churchill and Winnipeg.
Wolves are hard to see in our dense boreal forest. That elusive nature heightens their appeal. Once wolves, that are rescued or rehabilitated, are introduced at the Boreal Discovery Centre, there will be educational programs and viewing experiences for residents and visitors to learn and understand the social and complex nature of wolf packs that are always elusive.
Any great event or festival is successful with the help of volunteers, and a tourism industry for Thompson can benefit from having volunteers. Spirit Way Inc. is undertaking new and exciting projects for 2017 that will need volunteers. Watch for further updates to come. If someone wants to contribute and has their own great ideas they wish to pursue, or are unsure what to do, but would like to participate, they are welcome to contact Spirit Way Inc. through the Heritage North Museum, the Visitor Centre at the Meridian Hotel, or email at email@example.com. Visit www.thompsonspiritway.ca and LIKE us at Facebook/Wolf Capital of the World.
Information on the Wolf Capital is becoming available on the Thompson Guide mobile app, a free app with the latest in calendar events with community content, services, festivals, entertainment, and northern lights forecaster, and much more! This app is a great way for Thompson and region to interact and stay in touch while highlighting ourselves to the world. It’s a free download when using the keywords: Thompson Guide.
Tourism is a real leader in Manitoba’s economy. It is critically important that we value this resource and foster its development for the continued prosperity of our province. It is estimated by 2030 that every one in eleven jobs will be tied to tourism. The drivers for a successful tourism industry are Destination, Strength, and Community Engagement. Investing in tourism will only make Thompson and Manitoba an even greater place to live and work. Promoting the Wolf Capital of the World will help Thompson grow and diversify and will lead our community in the eco-tourism direction.
November 28, 2016
WOLF NEWS #4
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 www.thompsonspiritway.ca. 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 www.thompsonspiritway.ca, 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!
WOLF NEWS #3
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!
WOLF NEWS #2
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.Any residents who have questions or comments are highly encouraged to contactBonnie Bishop directly by e-mail email@example.com 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.
Two Wolf Workshops entitled, “Are 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,Â 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, âI 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.â
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.âs 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
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:
CHILDREN’S ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND
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.
WOLF PARK AT BOREAL DISCOVERY CENTRE
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.