Wolf Park Mourns Loss of Founder

Dr Klinghammer and friendAll the members of the Wolf Park community are in mourning today after the loss of the Park’s founder, Dr. Erich Klinghammer.  He passed away the morning of October 6, at  Lafayette’s  IU Health Arnett Hospital, at the age of 81.   Dr. Klinghammer had suffered from polycystic kidney disease for much of his adult life, and had been on dialysis for 12 years.

As a professor of ethology at Purdue University, Dr. Klinghammer started Wolf Park in 1972 using his own property, and his personal funds to create the 75 acre facility outside Battle Ground, Indiana. With the support of many who donated both their valuable time and money, the Park has grown and thrived.  As a 501 ( c ) 3 non-profit organization, it now maintains a Board of Directors, staff of eight, and dozens of volunteers who do the work to keep the organization strong.

Dr. Klinghammer is well known for his study of wolf behavior, contributions to the process of socializing captive wolves, and his English translation of the sixteen-volume Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia.  A native of Germany, he came to the U.S. after World War II, attended the University of Chicago, and became a professor at Purdue University in the 1960s.

The passing of Dr. Klinghammer leaves hundreds or perhaps thousands of people saddened, those whose lives he touched.  But they are also ready to carry on the Park’s mission and to carry this passion for wolf advocacy and education into the future.  This will mean that Dr. Klinghammer’s legacy will be ensured for generations to come.
A viewing and funeral service will be held on Sunday, October 9 at the
Soller Baker Funeral Home in West Lafayette, Indiana.  The viewing is
4-7 pm, and the service 7-8 pm, Eastern Daylight Time.

The Park is planning an event celebrating Dr. Klinghammer’s memory, which will be held on December 4, 2011 at 10:00 am.  Click here to read more about this event, which is open to the public.

Gifts in memory of Dr. Klinghammer may be made via our donation page or via the PayPal button below:




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40 Responses to Wolf Park Mourns Loss of Founder

  1. Jess says:

    Erich taught me a great deal. He was a unique person with a lot of knowledge to share, and he never stinted. I will never forget him.

  2. Patty says:

    My deepest colendences to Dr. Erich’s family and friends. I’m honored that I got to meet him a few years back, but my sadness is tempered with the knowledge that his love of these magnificent animals will continue for years to come with the work at WolfPark.

  3. I spent 3 weeks at Wolf Park in January of 1979 observing wolf behavior for part of my undergraduate thesis. I learned a great deal from Dr. Klinghammer and from the pack (wolf and human) at Wolf Park. As a high school science teacher from 1993-2009, I brought ethology and wolf behavior into my classroom often and today I am a professional dog trainer and community college instructor. Please accept my condolences on your loss, but know that Erich’s life and work has had and will continue to have far-reaching and positive effects.

  4. It is with gresat sadness I read that Erick Klinghammer has left us. But I am glad he got peace and is no pain and no suffering. I am honored that I had a chance to meet him severel times. I have learned A LOT from him and Wolf Park. The world and the wolves has lost soemthing very valuable. He, and the park has made a change in my life.
    Vibeke from Denmark

  5. Joyce Rheal says:

    Dr. Klinghammer and Wolf Park taught me a lot and inspired me to get more involved in helping wolves to the point that I even became a volunteer with an organization who assist getting wolves/hybrids out of dangerous domestic settings to become more active in wolf/wildlife preservation. He was a unique person with a lot of knowledge to share, and he never stinted. My deepest colendences to all. A living legacy has been left behind and with that he will never be forgotten nor will is work and many more will benefit from Wolf Park and all that it has to give and teach.

  6. Martha Roland says:

    It was a pleasure getting to know Dr Klinghammer at the seminars. I enjoyed his wisdom and incite. His love of for the wolves was evident. Rest well Erich, you will never be forgotten for your good work in getting word out that wolves are valuable to us all. I may not be able to get to the park as often as I want but I still carry with me the magic of the wolf howls with me. Thank you for providing the park for all of us to enjoy.

  7. Kim Beane Pyne says:

    I volunteered at the Park for two years in the mid-1990s and Erich was my real introduction to that work, taking me out on the truck during a Sunday wolf-bison demonstration and welcoming me openly and with confidence. He continued to be an active presence for as long as I could stay. I remember him fondly and am genuinely saddened to hear of his loss. His work and the work of the Wolf Park team changed not only our understanding of wolves, especially captive wolves, but changed so many human lives forever. Mine was certainly one of them.

  8. Marcia Ryan says:

    In May, I was very fortunate to attend the five day seminar at Wolf Park. Listening to Dr Klinghammer’s passion as he described his mission to preserve our beautiful wilderness deeply moved me. He talked about humble beginnings with two wolves. I wonder, did he realize how many lives his work touched? Far beyond the boundaries of Battleground, across continents even. Without Dr. Klinghammer’s vision, we would never have the opportunity to greet a wolf face to face. Nothing has moved me more than my experiences at Wolf Park. I am deeply grateful to Dr. Klinghammer and everyone at Wolf Park dedicated to his vision. His spirit will forever run with his packs. The earth, the Pack, and Wolf Park has lost an amazing human being. Please accept my heartfelt sympathy, Marcia Ryan

  9. Haim Wenger says:

    Erich was a friend and a mentor to me during the time I spent volunteering at Wolf Park. He believed in me, and encouraged me to do my best. I know he did this for many other people as well. This is why Erich was a great man. I miss him. His spirit will live on in the park!

    Haim Wenger

  10. Rebecca Bozarth says:

    It was a beautiful service, and I didn’t realize how much I missed Dr. Klinghammer until I saw just a fraction of people that he impacted. I remember one of the first times I went over to his house, and I told him how I would love to do some behavior studies. He offered me the privilege of studying his pet parakeets, as some eggs were due to hatch!! It made me chuckle when I heard the story of his PhD student and the pregnant garter snake. Erich, you were a wonderful role model, and I will strive to take your approach and inquisitive nature with me throughout my life’s endeavors.

  11. Not only was Dr. Klinghammer a great scientist and educator but more importantly he was a gentle soul. He made me feel very welcomed and valued as a person upon meeting him. He reminded me of my adored grandfather. So many people have been touched by him.

  12. LORI NEWIGER says:

    What a wonderful and careing man. He has made such an impact on so many lives. He made me feel very special when he took the time to chat with me on one of my many trips to Indiana (Wolf Park) from California. He listened and made you feel like what you were saying was the most important thing in the world. He will be so greatly missed. My heart goes out to all his family. I am so very very sorry for your loss. For the worlds loss of such a great man.

  13. Mary Ortiz says:

    Erich was one of the most highly respected wolf experts when I started working for wolves 25 years ago and he still is one today. Not many can achieve such a legacy. Wolves have lost a great champion but I know the knowledge he shared with the world in his lifetime will continue to help the wolf survive. You will always be remembered, Erich, in conservation history and in the hearts of the many people who will continue to dedication into the future.

  14. Margaret Kindlen says:

    The news of Dr Klingammer’ s passing has reached Uk. So sad. I had the honour of meeting him in May.
    What a wonderful inspiration he muss been to so many people. His legacy lives on in the wonderful people at Wolfpark
    My sincere condolencesn to you all.

  15. Margaret Kindlen says:

    The news of Dr Klingammer’ s passing has reached Uk. So sad. I had the honour of meeting him in May.
    What a wonderful inspiration he has been to so many people. His legacy lives on in the wonderful people at Wolfpark
    My sincere condolences to you all

  16. Jennifer Rowland Small says:

    Dr. Klingammer’s legacy as a prominent spokesman and educator for wolves has opened the eyes of many to the world of wolves, a world we never would have been able to experience. His gift of wolf ethology has opened a greater understanding of the wolf as a special animal. Through his founding of Wolf Park, the myth and enchantment of the wolf has enabled many people like myself to see, understand, and experience the wolf. The experience of being able to observe, touch and interact with wolves is a very special gift to all as Dr. Klinammer’s legacy to all generations.

  17. Lisa says:

    Thank you Dr. Klingammer for your life’s work in making people realize that the “Big Bad Wolf” is only a fairy tale….you will be missed.

  18. Tina Krieger says:

    My deepest Condolences.

  19. Marko Ascher says:

    As an ex-intern i will always remeber the meetings with Erich and the storys he told us. Thanks Erich for the wonderful and instructive time in wolfpark.

  20. Marty Huth says:

    Dr. Klinghammer will be missed. He will be missed not only by the thousands of visitors that entered the “world of the wolf” through him and Wolf Park but also by the individuals that he has personally touched. Those that were privileged to know him shall forever be reminded of, and hopefully shall adhere to, the ethological manner in which he looked at behavior in canids. Dr. Klinghammer gave those that study wolves an additional tool to utilize – a behavioral tool rather than just a biological reasoning. Besides all the science and psychology, Erich had a more important quality that surfaced in conversations with him. He truly cared about you, the individual. He was funny, quick to explain his reasoning. At times, quick to explain that your reasoning needed more research. His knowledge was not limited to canids – he was acutely aware of the happenings in the world and suffering of many thousands of people. I had a limited personal relation with Erich – one of those relationships that I shall forever treasure and realize that the times we had breakfast, lunch or dinner or was welcomed to into his home to sit and just talk were magnificent moments in my life. Priceless. Wolf Timbers owes its existence to Dr. Klinghammer. We received all three wolves (now two) from Wolf Park. Erich was never quick to disperse out to other wolf facilities pups that were born at the park. Erich always did his best in making sure those facilities that received Wolf Park pups were going to operate in a manner like Wolf Park. Not because the Wolf Park way was the only way but because he genuinely cared about the pups and about the impact a negative event at another facility could have in free-ranging wolves. I never witnessed Erich making a negative statement about another person. All were treated with respect. Yes, Erich loved ethology and working with wolves and doing what he could to allow humans to better understand wolves – this we know. What I know and what I really want to impress upon those that did not have an opportunity to get to now Erich is that those closest to him, his family and the staff at Wolf Park (just as much his family) is that they, myself included, are mourning not only because of his contribution to ethology and canids but that he was a very caring and kind person. Erich strived to entice you to do better, to go farther. Erich cared about the person. This I shall miss the most. Erich, you have created a great legacy and your work shall continue on in the form of Pat, Monty, Doug, Peggy, Karen, the staff at Wolf Park and the many others that you were instrumental in shaping their lifelong careers. We all have lost a true friend, an advisor, a constructive critic, a father figure to many of us. I am proud to say that I knew a living legend. Please help support Wolf Park as they continue to mourn.

  21. Trish Jenkins says:

    I love the story that his daughter tells about the dream he had that led to the foundation of Wolf Park. Glad he had that dream!

    We’ve all had many an interesting conversation with Erich over the years–we are indeed Erich imprinted. He has made us angry, he has made us laugh–at him and ourselves–and most important, he has made us think. The one quality I wish I had that Erich excelled at was telling it like it is. Erich was not afraid to say things that maybe you didn’t want to hear. But after you processed what he said, you knew he was insightful, and you knew that it wasn’t about his being right, necessarily, but about a keen way of observing.

    Erich was also kind–something I realized when all of my materials for my dissertation disappeared suddenly. He insisted on giving me money for a reward. It wasn’t an offer; it was a directive. I’ll never forget that.

    I know that Wolf Park will go on–but thank goodness it got started in the first place.


  22. Mandii Cramer says:

    I am greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Dr. Erich Klinghammer. I spent a wonderful, unforgettable summer in 1998 as an intern at Wolf Park. I was fortunate enough to become a puppy mother during my stay. I learned more about animal behavior at Wolf Park in my 3 month stay than I did during 4 years of college. Dr. Klinghammer was a large part of that. He was always willing & eager to teach me about wolf behavior.

    I’ll never forget one evening during that summer. A large storm was rolling in & Gary was pointing out the shape of the clouds & how it was the shape necessary for a tornado to form. Just as he was pointing this out the wind picked up & small twigs & limbs started being blown around. Having been caught in a tornado at a very young age I became petrified & frozen with fear. It took several people to get me to move from my position just outside the gift shop & head toward the observation building. As I was half way to the observation building Dr. Klinghammer came over & instructed me to come with him. We went in & sat down in his area of the observation building. As I shook & wiped away the tears that were starting to form Dr. Klinghammer started talking to me about the wolves. He pointed out how the wolves were preparing themselves for the storm. He was also talking me through my fear & before I knew it the storm had subsided enough for everyone to head back to the house.

    Dr. Klinghammer knew exactly what I needed just as he knew what the world needed to learn about wolves & their behavior. I am now a professional dog trainer & I use the information I learned at Wolf Park in my sessions with clients. Without Dr. Klinghammer & his vision for Wolf Park I never would have learned about animal behavior & I certainly wouldn’t have the love for wolves that I have today.

    Dr. Klinghammer will be greatly missed & my thoughts & prayers go out to his family & his Wolf Park family during this very difficult time. May God’s grace & peace be with you.

  23. Martina Thompson says:

    I’m so glad I had a chance to see Erich again in September, and to show him how my human “puppies”, as he called my children, were growing up. He has been very much like a father to me (with all the ups and downs that involves) since I was an intern at 16, and my youngest, Maya (4), cherishes the stuffed wolf Grandpa Erich gave her. Of course, Erich gave an example of his famous tact (ahem) when he greeted me “It’s Martina! And she’s pregnant!!” to which I responded “No, Erich, not pregnant, just fat…” ;) Just one of those things we all knew and loved about him. My family and I will miss him very much. All my love to the entire Wolf Park family.

  24. Michael Schneider says:

    Mach’s gut mein Freund. Ich sehe dich frueher oder spaeter auf der anderen Seite.

    When I met Erich the first time on a Sunday in July 2000 (right after I arrived in the US) he immediately adopted me. I enjoyed working for him as his personal assistant. I miss him. But we should not be sad because he is gone. Instead we should be happy that we knew him. May the Wolf God protect him. Fare well Erich.

  25. I am saddened to hear the news about this great man. His dedication to assist wolves was and will continue to be an asset to others. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

  26. Pingback: Wolf Park Mourns Loss of Founder « The Wolf Preservation Blog

  27. Francesca Sutton says:

    I didn’t know Erich was gone till I got online; my mom has been ill for a long time and I’ve been Caretaker all alone, so no time to do other things. I’m from back in the 70’s at Wolf Park, so my great condolences to Kirsten, Pat, and everybody else I knew back then.

  28. Denise Kirshenbaum says:

    I am very sorry to hear of Dr. Klinghammer’s passing. I think of Wolf Park frequently and was very happy to have attended three-day seminars at the Park on three different occasions. I have always loved wolves and dogs and cannot believe how much I learned there! I am very grateful to Dr. Klinghammer for building such an inspiring place of learning. He was always so friendly and welcoming. I hope he is with the wolves again.

    Denise Kirshenbaum

  29. Dr. Heni Helga-Maria says:

    Helga Maria Heni says:
    In memory of Erich, my dear friend for such a long time. Now you have left us and you went to the eternal happy hunting-grounds. I believe, you will meet your wolves and dogs again. Just as my dogs and Siberian Huskies which you knew. They went years ago ahead of you to the other world.
    During our friendship I learned so much about wolves and dogs from you. You were a great scientist with a great soul. You were always helpful and you always took good care of your friends. Where you are now, I hope that you will find joy, peace an consolation, just as you always gave help and words of comfort and consolation to me and all the people, who ever asked you for it.
    I`m so sad and I miss you, Erich.
    Good Bye and thank you, my dear friend.
    My deepest condolence also to Peggy, Kirsten and all the staff of the Wolf Park.
    Your Helga-Maria, in the name of Matthias too

  30. Brian Bailey says:

    I only just heard the sad news. I am so glad I visited the Park last year and got to see him again. I remember when I first lived at the Park he took me to Purdue and gave me a tour of their impressive computer science department.

    Throughout my time at Wolf Park I had the opportunity to learn from him not just about wolves, but also about animal behavior in general. The organization he founded will long continue to inspire people to advocate for wolves in the wild.

    Although I now live 1200 miles away and seldom get a chance to visit, I will always remember how Erich insisted that each of us learn to reach our full potential, which is the mark of a great professor.

  31. Joann Larson says:

    Whenever I think of Dr. Klinghammer two things come to mind. The first thing is watching the Chihuahua puppies my first summer as an intern at the park. The second is when I returned over a year later and spent my Christmas vacation as an intern and working on my own research project. It was my first Christmas away from my family and Dr. Klinghammer and his wife invited me over for Christmas dinner at their house. It was a thoughtful and kind thing to do and I will always be thankful for that, it made being away from home less lonely. We had a wonderful duck dinner (my first time having duck) and I will never forget his kindness and generosity.

  32. Mallory Kitts says:

    I truely enjoyed my time and learning as at my study classes at Wolf Park. Dr. Erich Klinghammer was a facinating person who loved to research and teach. He had such a gifted and inquizitive mind, always learning something new and keeping
    on top of things. He was so respectful to others and had such wonderful old world values that you rarely find in the world today. He was truly one of a kind! He opened up new ideas and learning about wolves that others never understood.

    I am so grateful for his legacy of Wolf Park that he created for others to view and learn from the wolves, his invaluble teachings to all who came through the gates. He made you want to return again and keep learning more.

    He left an indelible impression on everyone who met him at Wolf Park. I remember him with his little lap dog and the wolf/dog comparisons he talked about to our class. I remember him on the wolf/bison truck demonstrations..and how exciting it was for everyone on board!

    Rest in Peace Dr. Klinghammer, and may all your workers, staff and volunteers carry on the good work in your name for many years to come.

    Mallory Kitts

  33. Susan Ekstrom says:

    As saddened as I am to learn of Dr. Klinghammer’s death, I am cheered by the knowledge he so wonderfully imparted to us all. I shall never forget his interrupting a telephone call to howl to the wolves (who I could hear all the way in Michigan obligingly respond), or watching the adult wolves pouncing high in the air hunting mice while the “teenagers” excitedly (and somewhat nervously) circled the bison almost certain that they could eventually reach the calves (if only the darned adult bison would look the other way for just a minute or two). Dr. Klinghammer’s death is a loss to the ethnographic community, and many others as well. I’ll give a few howls to the Michigan Upper Peninsula wolves in memory of such a great man.

  34. When I had the great chance to get to know Dr. Erich Klinghammer, who had a connection to old freids of my parents in Germany (Helga Heni and family), it was something very very special for me. I visited him in 2009 in his Wolfpark, better visited the Wolfpark and him first in hospital and later on in nursing home. He made me feel like I would have known him for a long time, he gave me a great warm feeling, told me much about his past which started some day in Germany and had many stations. I’m sad that I could meet only once in my life. He was a warm-hearted, deeply empathetic person.

    I remember as if it was yesterday the seminar and my few visits to Erich.
    I remember the wolf/bison truck demonstrations..and how exciting it was for everyone in the group of the seminar.
    I really hope that his work and personality will stay at Wolfpark.
    I could learn very much from him even if he was ill, he had a deep strength inside.
    I am really greatful for my experiences at Wolfpark, I learned in many ways to be more careful with nature, learned from the Wolves, learned to see a wonder of nature in even small thing, which were just showed to me by Erich. He was a great teacher.

    Rest in Peace Erich, and may your great valuable work live on, carried by workers, volunteers and your wife Peggy as well.

    I will certanly come back to Wolfpark but it will be different without Erich.

    Malte Schellert (neé Roessner)

  35. Susan Helwig says:

    Dr. Erich was an amazing man, and his work enabled me to realize a lifelong dream as a teenager-to touch a live wolf. These animals have always been close to my heart, and because of Dr. Erich they have one more safe haven from ignorance and intolerance. RIP Dr. Erich..thanks for protecting wolves. Your dream will live on through all of us you and your work meant so much to.

  36. Elizabeth Tovar says:

    You inspired me so much Dr. Klinghammer! Spending time there was one of the best times of my life! I thank you for changing the course of my life, encouraging my passion for animals and taking me under your wing. I have two chihuahuas now and I think of you often when I hear them howl:) You were a positive energy in this world. Say Hi when I get there myself!

  37. Roland Gauthier says:

    OMG..I did not know he passed away til just now, what a terrible loss, I did not know him personally but met him through one of our school trips to the park, I can tell by his compassion for the Wolves he was deeply rooted with them, he did cared and showed the world we don’t have to wipe out a wonderful species, Knowing Doctor Klinghammer he is in a wonderful place now re-united with all the past wolves that passed on creating his heavenly wolf park.

  38. Nick Federoff says:

    I was very saddened to hear of Erich’s passing. The scientific community has lost a pioneer in canid behavioral sciences. Through Wolf Park, Erich allowed many to experience direct interaction with real wolves. His legacy will not be forgotten.
    N.E. Federoff
    Wildlife Biologist

  39. I dreamed from early childhood of “having a wolf for a friend”…After graduating from Veterinary school in Australia and practicing there for 9 years, I returned to the USA, passed the State and National Board exams in Illinois in 1974, and I attended a high school wolf demonstration in 1974 where I was enchanted by Dr. Klinghammer who brought a young Wolf named “Akili” to the high school. I was thrilled beyond belief to be able to put my arms around a bouncy, happy youg Wolf’s neck and just for a moment, to bury my face in “Akili’s gorgeous ruff …I “sponsored” Akili for a number of years, and other Wolves after Akili’s lifetime. I had become “addicted to dog training” by the age of 10, and showed our family Cocker to his first A.K.C. Obedience “C.D. leg” the same year…1948. I raised a beautiful tricolor Collie and trained him through his Akc Utility Degree by the time I graduated from New Trier High School and went to Davis, California, to attend pre-vet classes and then Veterinary School.
    I have spent my adult life training German Shepherd Dogs, an imported German Giant Schnauzer and a number of Rottweilers through Schutzhund I, II, and III and competed in Finland in 1995 World FCI all-breed Schutzhund Competition (IPO Rules), and the following week in Germany for the World Union for Giant Schnauzers…
    The ethology of the Wolf, as learned from Dr. Klinghammer and the writings of Dr. Mech and Dr. Michael Fox taught me forever more the “basics of canid ethology” that made my lifetime involvement with Schutzhund training/competition so much more “understandable and enjoyable” through the years.. AND MOST OF ALL, I was able to adopt an infant wolf cub at 9 days old, bottle-feed her until she could eat puppy food, and she and and my Schutzhund dogs “shared a large den” for the ten years of her life…1985-1995….(she died suddenly from a hemangioma on her pericardium)…
    I combed out her first three years of “winter coat” in Southern California, and I carded the wool and spun it into “yarn balls” (on a spinning wheeel I made from a kit), and I had her lovely wool hand-knitted into a VERY WARM vest, a scarf, a hat, and mittens…I think of Dr. Klinghammer and Wolf Park every time I handle the Wolf-wool garments……..I also knew a famous wildlife artist, who had her “photographer” come and film rolls of photos of “my” Wolf Nixe, and from those photos I had the artist make for me two exquisite “montages” of “Nixe” in pastel chalk, and these two portraits are the pride of my living room wall…I also had the same artist do an oil painting of one of my Rottweilers doing a spectacular “Hold-and-Bark” (holding the “Schutzhund decoy” motionless inside the wooden “blind” on the dogsport field)…I have done all of these things wich “far greater understanding of the handling of a competition-Schutzhund-Sport dog”, because of the “wolf-teachings and the learning of the “canid ethology” which I was privileged to experience through Dr. Klinghammer’s seminars, and his Newsletter every month from Wolf Park…..
    Dr. Klinghammer’s love of wolves and his dedicated teaching about the TRUTHS of wolves and the importance of their worldwide preservation, will live on forever through his writings, and through Wolf Park…..and the unique application of Wolf Ethology to the various performance sequences that form the “exercises” in the Schutzhund Sport, has made the understanding of this complex (but logical) Dog Sport so much more satisfying for handlers and dogs alike, around the world.
    I can easily “picture” God and Erich Klinghammer enjoying Eternal discussions of the role Wolves have played in their evolution and in their role as companions of early man, and the wonderful bond between man and Wolf that has taught us so much about “our own ethology” as well as that of wolf, dog and other canids. “THANK YOU, Erich, for all the gifts of knowledge you have shared with us and with your beloved wolves….YOUR GIFTS WILL LIVE ON AS THE KNOWLEDGE CONTINUES TO BE PASSED ON TO FUTURE GENERATIONS.
    …Margaret Hummen, DVM

  40. Lora says:

    I am terribly sad to read that Dr. Klinghammer passed away. I had the pleasure of meeting him when my daughter was very young. She kept asking him questions about the wolves and he was so kind and patient with her, encouraging her to ask questions. I am sorry for your loss, even if it is a couple of years ago.

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