Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Thompson cries wolf

Ten reports of wild canine sightings in past week

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Wolf sightings in Thompson are on the increase in the weeks following a conference where organizers were keen to brand the city the Wolf Capital of the World.

Many times the normal number of sightings of wolves and coyotes have been reported to a local Conservation hotline.

"There's been more wolf sightings in the last month than in the last three or four years," said Volker Beckmann, Thompson's main wolf advocate.

"That's been the joke because we just had this wolf conference and now we have these wolf sightings," Beckmann said. "People are saying to me, have you seen the wolves?"

The Oct. 23-24 First International Wolf and Carnivore Conference in Thompson about how to brand the city as the world's wolf capital -- part of an economic initiative of non-profit boosters the Thompson Spirit Way Inc. -- drew 100 experts from as far away as Scandinavia.

Bechmann said he sees wolves as an economic beacon for Thompson the way polar bears are for Churchill.

But for hikers, dog walkers and cross-country skiers on the popular 15-kilometre trail around Thompson, wolves are a reminder humans share the wilderness with wild animals.

Several have been reportedly spotted on the eastern edge of the trail near a Manitoba Hydro transmission line that backs onto wilderness.

Wolves or coyotes are rarely sighted inside city limits in Manitoba's most northern city, 740 kilometres north of Winnipeg.

"We encourage people not be to afraid of these things. Respect them and be aware you may run across them. They are wild animals. Keep your pets under control," Manitoba Conservation officer Lyle Saskowski said from Thompson Friday.

Manitoba Conservation logged 10 reports of wolf and coyote sightings on a tip line in Thompson in the past week. Usually it's one or two reports a week, Saskowski said.

Even he's seen one: "Just down the road from my house, when my wife was taking the dog out, last Friday. It was about 4:30 a.m. and it was a timber wolf. There was no mistaking it from a dog. It was overpoweringly huge -- wide shoulders," Saskowski said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 17, 2012 A15

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