Our Team

Gray wolf affectionately nuzzling Susan Eirich's face
Susan with Earthfire the Wolf

Susan B. Eirich, PhD

Executive Director

“The more mindful we are about how we live, the more effective we will be. We must let increasing urgency energize us but not lull us into quick, easy fixes or waste time waiting for others to lead. Each of us, in our way, must lead the way.”

With degrees in biology and psychology, as well as having lived with rescued wild animals for a quarter century, Dr. Eirich is uniquely qualified to offer creative and essential perspectives to help solve the problems of our time, combining insights from science, human development, introspection and nature into an integrated whole for living sustainably, harmoniously, and joyously on our Earth. Ever since she can remember, Susan has had an instinctive understanding of the value of all living beings and how important it is to treat all with respect, for our sake as well as theirs. Over twenty years ago, she founded Earthfire Institute, a wildlife sanctuary, rehabilitation center, and retreat destination located on 120 acres just west of Grand Teton National Park. Living with bears and wolves, cougars and coyotes, badgers and buffalo over their lifetimes, Susan has seen astounding events which have opened windows into the beautifully entangled nature of Life. Those experiences have helped her develop Reconnection Ecology®, a framework created to reawaken our deep relationship to wildlife and nature, expanding our sense of community to include all living beings and moving us to protect thriving habitats for all Life.

Susan has taught at universities around the world; worked as a psychologist in maximum security prisons; developed a university counseling center; directed a Nature Conservancy Preserve; and spent time with peoples in remote corners of Nepal, the Northwest Territories, and the Amazon rainforest, always seeking to see through other’s eyes. Susan works closely with her staff to maintain a professional organization that contributes to a new world view and story through global outreach and educational programs. She continues to oversee animal welfare at the Institute as she travels and speaks around the world, finding time to personally research the latest developments in holistic medical care for her beloved animals.

Jean Simpson and Windwalker the Cougar
Jean and Windwalker the Cougar • Photo by Jayme Chrisman

Jean Simpson

Founder and Professional Animal Handler

When Jean was five, he drew a picture of himself walking in a park in France with animals following him. His mother said they always did. Studying to be a veterinarian in Paris, he realized that he wanted a deeper relationship with animals than that would allow. He moved to the Rocky Mountains and taught himself how to train wolves through living with and understanding them.

 This led to a career training wild animals for movies, where he developed techniques based on reward and an amazing grasp of both the common traits of each species and the singular traits of each individual within that species. In 1989, he founded The Wild Bunch Ranch, where he trained domesticated wild animals based on his unique abilities and professional approach. He has trained and consulted on feature films, documentaries, commercials, and still shoots, and worked with many of the most famous wildlife artists and photographers in the country. He is known in the industry for his humane training methods, his safety record, the beautiful condition of his animals, and his ability to get outstanding performances from them. 

Jean brings his talents in understanding and handling wild animals to Earthfire, as well as serving as a consultant on animal welfare, safety, and animal home design. To see how he works with Humble Bumble the learning-disabled grizzly bear or Mr. Pinkerton the blind lynx, is enlightening.

Heather Holcomb with wolf pup
Heather with Kaya the Wolf puppy • Photo by LGV Creative

Heather Holcomb

Associate Director

After decades of working in upper level management in the hospitality and food & beverage industry, Heather sought something entirely different and challenging when the opportunity to work at a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico presented itself several years ago. She loved spending time with the wolves, coyotes, red fox, and other canids at the sanctuary, but following a rescue mission to L.A., where two wolfdog pups and three adult wolfdogs were rescued from a hoarding situation, Heather knew she needed to become more involved with rescuing and rehabilitating animals.

When she’s not hand-feeding baby skunks or handling ranch and office management duties, Heather enjoys spending time with her husband and their Golden Retriever, Bridger.

Heather is an IWRC Certified Wildlife Rehabilitator.

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