Wolf Park on Hold

After two years of work by Spirit Way Inc’s (SWI) volunteer ad hoc committee (Marion Morberg, Volker Beckmann, Dr. Ken Bingham, Wayne Hall, Tom O’Brien, Penny Byer), Mayor Johnston presented SWI a Letter of Understanding regarding the proposed Wolf Park, four weeks before construction was to start, that was not acceptable. Further discussion will be required to see if this project can be resumed.

SWI began this initiative 2 years ago with the blessing of Mayor Tim Johnston and Oswald Sawh, Councillor and City rep on the Zoo Society. During the past 18 months over a dozen grant applications and funding presentations were made to different agencies. Six different zoo experts and wolf biologists from Canada and the USA were invited to Thompson with Calm Air’s assistance to look at the Thompson Zoo and the current wolf enclosure that was constructed by the Thompson Rotary Club 27 years ago. It no longer meets the animal care standards of today.

Over 20 meetings were held with interested parties including the Zoo Director and University College of the North who are very interested in becoming a Centre of Wolf Excellence. UCN students could utilize the Zoo and Wolf Park which will be located adjacent to the pending new campus announced by the Province of Manitoba. Science studies and research projects could be undertaken at the Zoo. Students could do internships and work experiences at the Wolf Park. Elderhostel learning vacations are a definite possibility. The UCN carpentry class was prepared to do framing and roofing for a 1600 sq ft viewing building that would allow class room study of the wolves during winter months when their fur coats are at their finest.

Doug Ross, retired Director from the Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, was contracted by SWI to assist in designing the habitat space. A wolf pack requires unique features to keep the animals content and stress free. Without that, wolves will pace and can become aggressive to each other and to zoo handlers. Many details were considered. Laurie Lamb, landscape architect, was hired to design a one acre space that would house 3-4 wolves of the same genetic pool and a retirement area for the two current wolves that would be 6 times larger than what they have now. Other wolf parks in Canada and the USA were visited including the wolf enclosure at the Denver Zoo and input sought to achieve a first class facility for Thompson. It was felt that the Thompson Wolf Park would be the finest in Canada.

The total project costs were estimated to be $253,000 and over $200,000 has been raised to date including support and funds by Thompson Rotary Club, Community Places, Manitoba Community Services Council, Thompson Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation and private donations. A business plan would be required to operate a viable Wolf Park that would focus on science, conservation and tourism interests. A new governance model would need to be developed that would ensure opportunities for success and allow the Wolf Park to become an integral component of a much broader plan for Thompson to become the Wolf Capital of Canada and link with Churchill as Polar Bear Capital of the World.

Thompson is situated in the middle of wilderness boreal forest. Manitoba has some estimated 6000 wolves that have had very limited study. The opportunities for scientific research and eco-tourism initiatives are significant. Research projects, wolf conferences, learning vacations, wolf tours and study, etc are a few areas of development that could be undertaken. Manitoba could become a world leader in wolf management and attract interest from around the world. Canada’s foremost wolf biologist, Dr. Paul Paquet, from the University of Calgary and Saskatchewan has visited Thompson and expressed interest to work with UCN on wolf related research.

Thompson has all the raw ingredients to develop a wolf “industry”. No other place in the world has developed such amazing wolf art such as a 86 ft high Robert Bateman wolf mural, 49 painted wolf statues, the start of Canada’s largest rock sculpture, and a GPS wolf statue hunt. There are many irons in the fire. More than a dozen organizations in Canada, USA and Mexico have expressed interest in working with Thompson on wolf initiatives that involve tourism or science. Yet, all of this is contingent on a new, enlarged and enhanced wolf park. We hope to resolves these issues soon. Stay tuned!

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In the Spirit!