Thompson stands at the verge of creating a new identity for itself as the wolf capital of Canada, says Volker Beckmann. On Oct. 23-24 the city will host the first ever International Wolf and Carnivore Conference, an early step in the formation of a new industry.
“Thompson is becoming with wolves what Churchill was with polar bears 30 years ago,” said Volker Beckmann.
The conference will take place at Riverlodge Place and Beckmann is hoping for a crowd of close to 90 guests, 30 of which have already registered.
An impressive line up of high-calibre guest speakers from across the country and around the world will be on hand. Dave Mech from the University of Minnesota, and one of the world’s top wolf biologists will speak at the conference, along with Manitoba Daryll Hedman, manager of wildlife for the Northeast Region branch office of Manitoba Conservation here in Thompson, and Russian Academy of Sciences’ Nikita Ovsyanikov, who has studied the survival strategy of polar bears during global warming and how they deal with other wildlife and wolves in particular.
“There are over a half dozen countries being represented,” said Beckmann, “our speakers are the big draw.”
Thompson is the new kid on the block in terms of the study of wolves, and this conference could be the perfect springboard to getting the city’s name out there among some of the most world-renowned wolf experts, he said.
Beckmann explains that the city is sitting at the cusp of a burgeoning new industry, much like cold-weather testing was 20 years ago.
“With cold weather testing it started that companies were just doing it in parking lots, then it became a winter testing association by some of the car dealerships, then a few years later the Chamber of Commerce set it up as a part-time committee, then eventually Thompson Unlimited took it over where there’s a dedicated staff,” said Beckmann.
The goal following the conference is for organizations like Spirit Way and UCN to take the information gained and to have the rest of the world know what’s going on in Thompson, and to then create a strategic plan to manage and market the new industry.
Themes to be looked at during the conference are, wolf ecology, management and policies, wolves and polar bear dynamics along the coast of the Hudson Bay, defining a wolf and carnivore centre of excellence, and looking at current and future wolf research projects in unstudied regions.
UCN would look to be established as the wolf centre of excellence; a training facility with programs and a curriculum in place to train local people to work towards building Thompson’s future as a wolf capital, and conducting the research necessary to make Thompson a player on the world stage.
Beckmann laughs at the almost backwards approach that the city took in the process of establishing Thompson as a wolf capital.
“We have all of the wolf statues and the wolf mural already,” said Beckmann, “so it’s like we did the marketing first and then the research, instead of the other way around.”