International Wolf Center

Last year, our committee came across this centre in Ely, Minnesota, when doing research on wolves. Their website,, is packed full of information. I initially contacted Dr. David Meech for wolf advice on how to improve the wolf enclosure at the Thompson Zoo. He referred me to Lori Schmidt, Curator, who was very cooperative in her knowledge of how to manage captive wolves. Their educational programs are comprehensive, and their knowledge base on wolves is significant. Their web cams display a gorgeous, panoramic view of their facility.

The opportunity came up two weeks ago to head south and my wife and I drove 900 miles to visit Ely, Minnesota to see the IWC. It was a great trip and a wonderful visit. Northern Minnesota is much like Northern Manitoba except more towns and more people. Ely is about an hour off the highway so you have to have a reason to go there. For a town of 3000 people it is beautifully tucked in the midst of forest, lakes and rivers. At the edge of Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, an outdoors person’s paradise…

Although they hadn’t opened fully for the summer season, Lori Schmidt graciously took some time off her work as an instructor at Vermilion College to give us a back scenes tour. I was impressed… with the architectural design of the centre, its location, the entrance, their displays and the wolf enclosure. Large windows give one a face to face view of their 6 captive wolves. Their habitat is very well designed and extremely “natural” looking, not some type of “canned” enclosure, as smaller animal centres can be.

The wolves showed their friendly side when they recognized Lori, yet they showed their pack behaviour when a non-regular procedure occurred for our benefit. You could see the wild side! Wolf behaviour is in constant research around the world because of the animal’s intelligence, pack behaviour and interaction, and the human/wolf conflicts that do occur.

We next travelled to Minneapolis to meet with Mary Ortiz, Executive Director, IWC. Again, Mary was very courteous and cooperative to answer many questions as to how we could enhance our wolf enclosure in Thompson and develop wolf research, education, tourism and conferences. Our goal is to develop Thompson as the Wolf Capital of Canada. Manitoba has few regulations on wolves in captivity, because they are not endangered in our province. Manitoba has some 6000 wolves.

Thompson has all the raw sustainable resources to develop a “wolf industry”…. captive wolves, wild wolf packs, aboriginal traditional knowledge, amazing public wolf art, and a neutral stance on wolves and humans. Add this to our links to Churchill, Polar Bear Capital of the World, and we are confident we can develop new attractions and programs about wolves.

I look forward to continuing our new relationship with the IWC in the future and hope we can help promote their centre and the wolf ”cause”. Stay tuned to many ideas and developments in the works.

In the Spirit!