Making Thompson 'wolf capital' of Canada draws debate
Push on to change northern Manitoba city's image as a crime capital
Efforts in Thompson, Man., to rebrand the northern Manitoba city as the "wolf capital" of Canada has some debating whether the new title would actually work.
There is a push to find a new identity for Thompson, which has been known as a violent crime capital.
Last week, Thompson hosted the first International Wolf and Carnivore Conference, attracting about 100 scientists and other delegates from five countries.
"We found a world fascinated in wolves, and we began to realize there's an opportunity here we didn't recognize before," said Volker Bechmann, the conference's organizer.
Bechmann said he thinks Thompson's wolves could get tourists flocking to the city, in the same way Churchill attracts people with polar bears and beluga whales.
But Andrea Hatley, who has been trapping wolves near Thompson for almost two decades, warned that tourists would be disappointed if they expect to spot some wolves.
By its very nature, a wolf is very hard to see, Hatley said.
"It's elusive, it's shy, especially in an area where it's been exposed to people around the city," she said.
Wolf research destination?
Hatley said she sees the benefits of wolves in shaping Thompson's identity, but just as a tourist draw.
Instead, she suggested that Thompson become known as a wolf research and education destination, where people can learn more about the animals.
"We would be the face of academic research," she said.
"We would present it to the layperson [as] 'This is what's happening; this is very exciting.'"
Any new image for Thompson would be better than what the city has right now, Hatley added.
Manitoba Conservation estimates there are about 4,000 wolves in the province, mainly in boreal forests and on the tundra, and the population appears to be stable.
There are plans in Thompson to build a Boreal Discovery Centre, a $3.8-million facility that would have animal exhibits and education programs. The centre is slated to open in about five years.
While some in Thompson are leaning towards a wolf theme for its new identity, others argue that the city's brand should also reflect its high aboriginal population.
Thompson, which has a population of 12,829, is located 739 kilometres north of Winnipeg.