Dr. Erich Klinghammer
Dr. Erich Klinghammer is the founder and director of Wolf Park. He is an ethologist, and began his work with wolves in order to study their behavior. Dr. Klinghammer regards wolves as sensitive indicators of the well-being of the ecosystem of which they are a part. He established Wolf Park to conduct long term, in-depth studies of wolf behavior. This research augments ecologists’ field studies of wild wolves.
Dr. Klinghammer holds a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and is a member of the Animal Behavior Society, the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums and several other professional organizations. In 1986 the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) selected the wolf as Animal of the Year, and honored Dr. Klinghammer with their Certificate of Appreciation for his work with wolves. Dr. Klinghammer came to Indiana to join the faculty at Purdue University where he taught ethology, applied ethology, animal behavior and psychology. Since retiring from Purdue in 1995 he now holds the position of professor emeritus. He is the director of the Institute of Ethology at Wolf Park, which oversees the research conducted here. His research at Wolf Park included the study of aggressive and hunting behavior in dogs and the social behavior of wolves. Interactions between wolves and bison are also studied at the Park. He studied the strategies of both predator and prey, including how wolves test the bison for signs of vulnerability, and how bison defend themselves and their calves. Wolf Park is the only place in the world where interactions between wolves and bison can be observed and studied by visitors and scientists in a wildlife park.
After immigrating to the U.S. from German in the 1960s, Dr. Klinghammer developed a deep love for his adopted country. On a flight across the U.S., looking out over the vasts swaths of open land, he made a promise to himself that he would somehow contribute to the preservation of wilderness in this country. He had seen how in Europe most wild lands were tamed by human development. His work on behalf of wolves and their conservation has been his contribution to this cause.
Dr. Klinghammer worked with Dr. Raymond Coppinger on the use of livestock guard dogs to protect livestock from wolves, coyotes and feral dogs. A livestock guarding dog was used for many years to protect a flock of sheep at Wolf Park. This work is important for helping man coexist with the wolf, in areas where they might seem to be each others’ enemy.
Dr. Klinghammer’s animal behavior studies began with doves, followed by studies of killer whales. He has dedicated his career to the dissemination of accurate information about animals, and is responsible for the English translation of the sixteen-volume Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia published by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company. This is now a standard reference work in American and Canadian zoos. He consults with zoos on the design of wolf exhibits, and several zoos, including the Philadelphia Zoo, have adopted Wolf Park’s humane management system of caring for wolves in captivity.
A lifelong interest in dogs led Dr. Klinghammer to breed and train German Shepherd dogs in the past. He is still a member of the Verein f. Schaeferhunde (SV). Presently he owns three Chihuahuas. Dr. Klinghammer also has a special interest in aggressive behavior problems of dogs, captive wolves and dog-wolf hybrids. He has served as a behavior consultant to attorneys, and has testified in court cases. For several years he was involved in the training program for animal control officers in Louisville, Kentucky.
Dr. Klinghammer resides at Wolf Park with his wife Peggy, and participates in some of the daily programs and seminars that take place at the Park. He enjoys now when visitors come to the Park that were here as children, and who now are bringing their own children to this special place to learn about wolves and nature.