Wolf capital of the world council meets

A councilof members was formed to launch the Wolf Capital of the World by the end of 2015 as an initiative to bring more attention to wolves. Spirit Way Inc. invited organizations from across Manitoba to participate after strong interest and support for wolf advocacy grew following the Wolf and Carnivore Conference in Thompson in 2012. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Alistair Bath from Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, facilitated two wolf workshops in Thompson and Winnipeg in May 2013 that provided direction towards creating a “wolf economy” in Manitoba.

As an apex predator species, wolves have been admired, feared, and maligned around the world. Over the past 150 years, many jurisdictions tried to exterminate wolves due to conflict issues, especially in areas where cattle ranchers (North America), sheep farmers (Europe), reindeer farmers (Sweden), and caribou, deer and elk hunters (North America) live. After Thompson’s international wolf conference and strong show of interest from attendees from five countries, the new Wolf Capital Council gathered and met in Winnipeg in March 2013.

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Council meetings have been held every four to six months with representatives from numerous organizations - Spirit Way Inc., Travel Manitoba, Wildlife Society, Manitoba’s Tourism Secretariat, Parks Canada, Frontiers North Adventures, Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce, as well as interested individuals from R.D. Parker Collegiate, University College of the North, University of Manitoba, and Memorial University. The wildlife branch of Manitoba Conservation sends representatives as observers. Discussions have been held with Manitoba Trappers Association on wolf-related topics.

The first question the council considered was which jurisdiction should house the “wolf capital”?  The consensus was to focus on Thompson, as Spirit Way Inc. has several wolf initiatives underway from public wolf art, building a wolf exhibit at the Boreal Discovery Centre, youth education, supporting research projects, eco-tourism and fun, geo-caching experiences. More initiatives are planned to build on this foundation. Without farming or ranching, Northern Manitoba has little or no wolf/human conflicts as seen in other regions. Aboriginal respect and admiration for wolves was an important aspect to portray and project to the world. The Ojibway consider the wolf to be their brother, and Cree members of the Wolf Clan will not shoot or trap wolves as a virtue of respect.

A vision statement for a Wolf Centre of Excellence was adoptedthat could position Thompson as a global site for “all things wolf.” It places value on wolves as an ecological and economic asset for Manitoba and strives for best practices in human/wolf co-existence in the fields of wolf education, science and research, conservation, eco-tourism, aboriginal culture, human dimension, and management.

Marion Morberg, president of Spirit Way Inc., Volker Beckmann, and Kathryn McNaughton, serve as co-chairs of the organization.

At the most recent meeting on Nov. 10 in Winnipeg with participation via phone from Thompson and Newfoundland, numerous wolf projects and matters were discussed. Individuals from the Aboriginal Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Secretariat are to explore how best to participate in the future. Spirit Way Inc. reported on its work building a world-class wolf exhibit at the new Boreal Discovery Centre in Thompson.

Dr. Alistair Bath summarized his thesis student’s work on wolf perceptions taken from Thompson residents. Mark Clarke from Travel Manitoba reported on promoting wildlife and wolf tours in Manitoba during the next Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in 2015.  A unique wolf and polar bear research project was outlined for the near future that would involve Spirit Way Inc., Manitoba Conservation, and two universities. In order to complete several wolf projects currently in the planning stages, fundraising efforts need to raise approximately $400,000. A Wolf Capital of the World Facebook Page has been launched. Key initiatives in the short term include development of a Wolf Capital Strategic Plan that would highlight this top predator species in Manitoba thereby adding to Manitoba’s wildlife reputation and brand.

Volker Beckmann is the project director with Spirit Way Inc. He can be reached by email at thompsonspiritway@gmail.com.

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