KYLE DARBYSON / THOMPSON CITIZEN
On Oct. 18–19, over a hundred wildlife experts from across the world will converge on Riverlodge Place in Thompson for the second ever Wolf and Carnivore Conference.
According to Volker Beckmann, a member of Spirit Way Inc. and one of the event’s lead organizers, this conference will cover a number of topics related to wildlife conservation, including how climate change is affecting polar bear populations and the ethics of culling wolves to protect livestock.
“This conference is targeting people who are in the field,” he said. “So we’re going after people who are university graduates in the conservation or wildlife sector, science sector, biology sector, or people in the field already, whether they’re researchers or biologist or scientists.”
A number of high profile figures have already signed on to present keynote speeches at this upcoming event, including polar bear biologist Nikita Ovsyanikov, University of Minnesota professor Dave Mech, and author Erin McCloskey, who published the book Wolves in Canada back in 2011.
Outside of featuring these leading experts, Beckmann said this year’s conference also serves as a celebration of how far the city has come in terms of situating itself as a focal point for wolf research and education. After all, the last Wolf and Carnivore Conference took place in the fall of 2012, around the same time that Thompson’s reputation as the “Wolf Capital of the World” started to gain traction.
“When we first did this in 2012, nobody really knew … , in the wildlife conservation world, that Thompson, Manitoba existed. We were kind of the new kid on the block,” said Beckmann. “We now have allies and relationships built in the wolf and wildlife world, so we’ve been able to progress that way.”
This new group of allies includes Rob Schultz, who is the director of the International Wolf Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, which represents 10,000 members throughout the world. After attending the first Wolf and Carnivore Conference five years ago, Schultz couldn’t help but notice how people in northern Manitoba are much more willing to peacefully co-exist with these creatures.
“The thing that’s happening in Thompson is really unique. We’re seeing a community that really seems to embrace wolves,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why we really enjoy working with the entire Spirit Way group and Volker because they’re at the forefront of being able to talk about and work through some of those kinds of issues.”
Beckmann is also using this year’s conference as a launching pad to build a local Wolf Centre of Excellence, which will house its own unique series of programs and attractions related to wildlife conservation. And since all these world-renowned scientists, biologist, and researchers will be in the same place at the same time in October, Beckmann is capitalizing on this opportunity to get some much needed feedback on their strategic plan document.
“It will be circulated about two weeks in advance before the conference so all the attendees have a chance to review it and they’ll have a chance for input to help us guide the direction of where this project could go,” he said.
For his part, Schultz is really excited to return to this conference, especially since the topic of his lecture, wolf and human management, remains a controversial issue in the wildlife conservation community.
“And it’s really about education,” he said. “For so many people, they just don’t understand the issues and as we work with people to help them understand what those issues are … there’s less tension around it.”
For more information on the upcoming Wolf and Carnivore Conference, please visit www.thompsonspiritway.ca/conference.