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 Globe & 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 started 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 from 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, grey wolves (canus lupus) of different colors – tan, white, black, and various shades of grey – and many other photos of beautiful and majestic predators.
One video clip posted Jan. 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 travelling 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 per cent 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, ecotourism, conservation, events, art and culture. Keep posting!
This is the fourth in a series of Spirit Way articles highlighting news about their efforts to highlight Thompson as the Wolf Capital of the World.