Tremendous Wolf & Carnivore Conference!

Thank you to all the attendees and keynote speakers for attending and participating in the conference. Here is a summary of what took place and suggestions what Thompson should do to become a global Wolf Centre of Excellence!

WOLF & CARNIVORE CONFERENCE 2012 REPORT

ATTENDANCE

Thompson, Manitoba’€™s first international Wolf & Carnivore Conference was attended by 98 people from Canada, USA, Finland, Japan and Russia. A broad section of organizations and interest groups were present such as universities, wildlife organizations, wolf sanctuaries, government departments from Manitoba and Wisconsin, Manitoba Trappers Association, an American native confederation, Parks Canada, Manitoba Wildlife Federation, The Wildlife Society, Travel Manitoba, an ecotourist lodge, as well as local interested parties.

KEYNOTES

What was notable and appreciated by many was the calibre of keynote speakers from 3 countries – Dr. Nikita Ovsyanikov, Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Dave Mech, University of Minnesota, Dr. Paul Paquet and Dr. Marco Musiani from University of Calgary, and Dr. Alistair Bath from Memorial University, St John’s, Newfoundland.

Nikita Ovsyanikov explained the declining numbers of polar bears on Wrangle Island Nature Preserve in northern Siberia. He stated that much could be attributed to human interference, more so than simply climate change. Daryll Hedman also provided interesting information on polar bear movements and denning along the coast of Hudson Bay, as well as where wolves and polar bears interact. Both had studied polar bears for decades and had learned that these carnivores were not as voracious as many believed.

Marco Musiani presented examples of wolf management solutions in different parts of the world. Alistair Bath described sessions he facilitates in resolving the human dimension aspects of wolf management. Paul Paquet spoke of the challenges in Conservation Ethics, and how humans use animals to their benefit even when they want to protect them.

Dave Mech presented a keynote address on his personal 54 years of wolf research.

RESEARCH

Over twenty presenters covered a gamut of topics that included wolf research projects in Finland, Ontario and Manitoba, Canada. Some interesting findings in northern Manitoba were described from work being undertaken by University of Manitoba researchers funded through Manitoba Hydro.

Several university students from Finland, Japan, and Manitoba presented their wolf research work on posters that were displayed during the course of the two day conference. An audience participation session was held to outline potential research projects in Northern Manitoba.

VARIETY OF PRESENTERS

Presenters from the International Wolf Centre in Minnesota and Living with Wolves in Idaho outlined the scope and work of their organizations in the context of the complex and often, controversial, wolf issues in the USA.

One unique topic included a presentation by the Grade 6 students at École Riverside School in Thompson on their Wolves Without Borders educational program, whereby the students collaborated with a similar school in the USA and Mexico. The students presented their results and feelings on wolves and the project. It was well received by the audience. It was evident that these youth may take up a career path in biology or wildlife science.

Ron Spence, President of the Manitoba Trappers Association, spoke passionately on his Aboriginal roots and teachings, and what the spiritual aspect of being a member of the Wolf Clan meant. Bryan Lundie captivated the audience with some wolf stories and sounds.

Dr. Rick Baydack led an audience session on identifying wolf research projects in the unstudied regions of Manitoba. As former chair of The Wildlife Society, Manitoba Chapter, Baydack also articulated the role of TWS and the pending conference that they would host in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2015. This function will attract nearly 2000 wildlife and conservation-minded people from across the globe. Manitoba could showcase its natural wildlife including its charismatic species of polar bears and wolves.

Informative Skype video sessions were held with John Benson, a graduate student at Trent University doing wolf research in Ontario, and Jess Edberg from the International Wolf Center in Minnesota.

TOPICS & PRESENTATIONS COVERED:

  • Local and global wolf research
  • Potential wolf research projects
  • Youth Education
  • Carnivores and climate change
  • Human Dimensions of wildlife management
  • Government policies on wildlife management
  • Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge and Perspective
  • UCN as a Wolf Centre of Excellence
  • Ecotourism
  • Public acceptance and mismanagement issues
  • Conservation Ethics
  • Creating a wolf economy in Thompson

MANITOBA TOPICS

One session facilitated by Alistair Bath focused on identifying obstacles and solutions in University College of the North becoming a recognized Wolf Centre of Excellence. Christa Dubesky, a UCN instructor, spoke on the progress towards such a Centre of Excellence. A representative of Spirit Way Inc. presented a case for Manitoba developing a “wolf economy€ based on research, education, conservation, science, ecotourism, and wolf events. A representative of the government of Manitoba described the status of wolves in the province and some of the measures they were using to reduce wolf numbers that might be contributing to a decline in the moose population.

OVERALL

During the highlight banquet attended by over 150 conference attendees and community leaders, Spirit Way Inc. thanked the keynotes and read a prepared media release to proclaim Thompson as a Wolf Centre of Excellence and to set a goal to become the Wolf Capital of the World by 2015. This would coordinate with the new University College of the North campus opening in 2014 in Thompson, the first phase of a world class captive wolf enclosure and study area being completed in the new Boreal Discovery Centre in Thompson, and the large Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in 2015.

Overall, conference organizers received many compliments for the breadth and scope of topics covered, the quality of the keynote speakers, and the precision of the timing and delivery of presenters. One attendee commented that this was the best conference she had ever attended (see addendum). The venue lent itself to meeting and discussing topics with anyone on a one to one basis. One visitor mentioned he could sense the buzz in the room when he walked in and everyone was focused on the sessions until the very end.

Event organizers felt it was remarkable that so many topics could be covered about one animal species. This highlights how interesting and unique wolves are in the natural environment, and how one event would draw people from around the world to a small wilderness city in northern Manitoba.

During the conference a snowfall occurred which posed problems with flights and highway travel. No one seemed overly concerned about getting home. One individual from Florida missed the first day of the conference due to passport issues. Yet, she was very excited to attend and, after a quick tour of Thompson’€™s public wolf art, was thankful that she came.

The conference manager thanked the sponsors for their financial support which allowed them to reduce the registration fee for the conference by 60%. Over a dozen local organizations and various individuals in Thompson were responsible to deliver a first class event. In conclusion, numerous ideas, suggestions, and offers to partner with Thompson were received. These will be reviewed in order to keep the interest and momentum going.

RECOGNITION OF CONFERENCE SPONSORS:

Platinum Sponsors

Province of Manitoba/Conservation SDIF, University College of the North, Manitoba Hydro, Thompson Unlimited, Vale, Travel Manitoba,

Gold Sponsors – Travel Manitoba, Calm Air

Silver Sponsors – Burntwood Hotel, Mystery Lake Hotel, Lakeview Inn & Suites, Tourism Secretariat

Bronze Sponsors – Best Western, CIBC, Greyhound Bus

MEDIA COVERAGE

Advertising for the conference was purchased in various publications, plus Facebook, posters, and emails. A great amount of positive media editorial content was received in these publications:

Winnipeg Free Press – June 8 & November 6, 2012

First Nations Voice – September 2012

La Liberte © (St. Boniface) – September 19, 2012

Thompson Citizen – October 31, 2012

Wolves (Haliburton Forest) – Summer, 2012

MBiz (Manitoba Chamber of Commerce) – June, 2012

Wildlife Professional – Fall 2012

The Telegram (St. John’s) – December 17, 2012

Stories and interviews also aired on CBC Winnipeg radio, CBC Winnipeg TV, NCI FM.

SUGGESTIONS TO CONTINUE THE WOLF CAPITAL AND CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE INITIATIVES:

  • Thompson should host a visioning and strategic planning session with various partners in 2013 to continue the process to become the Wolf Capital of the World.
  • Identify further wolf research projects in Northern Manitoba
  • Raise funds to place radio collars on wolves for youth educational research
  • Partner with International Wolf Center, Minnesota
  • Partner with Confederated Colville Tribes, Washington state
  • Promote at International Wolf Center’s conference in 2013
  • Promote Thompson at annual The Wildlife Society conference in 2013 and 2014
  • Create an online “one stop shop” and portal for all wolf related initiatives in research, conservation, policy, tourism, education, events, art, Aboriginal perspective, etc.
  • Marjorie Huculak, Parks Canada outlined promotion and marketing initiatives to grow the
  • Wolf Centre of Excellence.
  • Declare Thompson as Wolf Capital of the World by October, 2015 in time for the large international Wildlife Society Conference in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
  • Host a series of articles in the Thompson newspaper to inform and educate the Thompson public on the ecological and economic value of wolves in northern Manitoba
  • Polar bears and climate change
  • Current research – from Manitoba to Finland
  • Conservation Ethics
  • UCN as a Wolf Centre of Excellence
  • Human Dimensions of Wolf Management
  • Global wolf research by Dave Mech
  • Aboriginal perspective
  • Policy and politics
  • Social mismanagement of wolves

CONFERENCE OUTCOMES & BENEFITS

  • Thompson is tapping into a new industry sub-sector – the wildlife and conservation community.
  • Interest is being generated from an international audience.
  • The conference awareness and interest was very positive and advantageous for Thompson.
  • The wildlife and conservation subject helps takes focus away from negative media coverage.
  • Wolves have a media appeal that is attracting unsolicited coverage in print and social media.
  • Partnership arrangements are being offered and explored that can have economic and PR benefits.
  • Manitoba can become a world leader in wolf management.
  • Conference generated attention for UCN for research and recruitment opportunities.
  • Linking this Conference to The Wildlife Society conference in Winnipeg in October 2015 will keep the topic and initiatives in the forefront for the next 3 years.

SUGGESTIONS & CONSIDERATIONS TO PURSUE WOLF CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE:

KEYNOTE A:

  1. Get solid human dimensions data on resident attitudes, beliefs and attitudes toward management options and towards Thompson being a Wolf Capital and Centre of Excellence.
  2. Human dimensions research and applied work regarding wolf management in Manitoba. First Nation views about wolves? Do attitudes and values vary across the North toward wolves? Do attitudes differ between the south and the north?
  3. I would be very interested in doing some of this human dimensions research and getting a graduate student involved in such work.

KEYNOTE B:

  1. Assess status of local wolf population, including approximate number harvested each year.
  2. Establish a live-wolf exhibit in a natural enclosure as part of the new nature display.
  3. Hire a full-time person to coordinate your effort.
  4. Promote a science or zoology position at your new university.

KEYNOTE C:

  1. A strong aboriginal component in your Centre both in the staff and the educational/interactive aspects would be a powerful attractant.
  2. Tourists sign up for wolf tours and often don’t see them. They more easily hear them when efforts are made to howl them up. These tours are rich in information. Guides bring along wildlife biologists or game wardens for information, they bring pelts and paw molds and mock skulls for the tactile, hands-on experience and interactive learning. Tours can be rich in information while traveling through habitat, explaining how wolves interact with or affect their habitat and prey species. All this can be done on a rewarding wolf tour without seeing wolves.

KEYNOTE D:

  1. Develop a Strategic Business Plan for developing Thompson as the wolf centre of excellence with clearly specified objectives and achievable deadlines.
  2. Consider a ‘retreat’ where a cadre of interested biologists from government, academia, ngo’s, the Thompson community, First Nations, etc. are brought together over 2 or 3 days to help create the Plan.
  3. Bring in a professional facilitator (Denis DePape or Sheldon MacLeod offer this type of service from Winnipeg or the Organization of Wildlife Planners [http://www.owpweb.org/] can provide this service from the US) to help achieve the proper flow and sequencing of the Plan and avoid costly roadblocks. Â Alistair Bath started us in the right direction, and could perhaps also be an appropriate facilitator.

TESTIMONIALS

MM:

€œI just wanted to let you know that you put on a wonderful conference. Out of all the conferences I had the opportunities to go to, this was by far the best one. Not only was the content phenomenal, but it was small enough that folks could network with each other in a comfortable setting. I just wanted to congratulate you and the other organizers for putting this on. Keep up the good work!

CF:

œHearty congratulations on a wonderful conference. There is lots of work yet to do… but what you have accomplished in Thompson regarding Wolf & Carnivore initiatives is very impressive… and those in attendance were excited, interested and surprised at the enthusiasm showed as you work toward creating a wolf centre for excellence in Thompson. Well done… I am so glad I attended.

SP:

€œI just wanted to say that I am enjoying Thompson and what is transpiring here, GREAT WORK!!!!

PP:

€œPlease extend my thanks and gratitude to all those responsible for the Thompson wolf conference. I was honoured to be invited and to participate in this wonderful event.

DT:

€œWe REALLY enjoyed our entire trip to Churchill, Thompson and the conference. You should be so happy with the results of your obvious broad and intensive efforts….you planted many seeds and spread many focused considerations for not only your city but for our fellow great carnivores as well. We hope to continue our contacts with you in the future and see great things down the road.

RS:

€œI cannot tell you how impressed I was with the conference. You did such an awesome job of pulling this together!!

MM:

€œThank you again for organizing such a wonderful, unique conference!!