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Call of the Wildman

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7.6/10 TV

Original language(s)  English
No. of episodes  72
Final episode date  14 September 2014
Language  English
6.8/10 IMDb

Country of origin  United States
No. of seasons  4
First episode date  30 October 2011
Network  Animal Planet
Call of the Wildman wwwgstaticcomtvthumbtvbanners8819436p881943
Also known as  The Turtleman of Wild Kentucky Call of the Wildman: More Live Action
Starring  Ernie Brown, Jr. (aka "The Turtleman"); Neal James
Similar  Billy the Exterminator, Hillbilly Handfishin', American Stuffers, Wild Rescues, Rocket City Rednecks

Call of the Wildman is an American reality television series that airs on Animal Planet. The show follows the exploits of Kentucky woodsman Ernie Brown, Jr., nicknamed "The Turtleman". Aided by his friend, Neal James, and his dog, Lolly, Brown operates a nuisance animal removal business, while he catches and releases nuisance animals. The series is primarily filmed near Brown's Lebanon, Kentucky, home.


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Brown began catching snapping turtles from ponds near his home at the age of 7. He came to the attention of Animal Planet producers in part after an episode of Kentucky Educational Television's Kentucky Afield series that featured his bare-handed turtle-catching techniques was posted on YouTube and went viral. After personally visiting Brown and doing some initial filming, network executives decided to produce a 12-episode season of the series with the working title The Turtleman of Wild Kentucky. The title was soon changed to Call of the Wildman, a reference to Brown's distinctive yell that punctuates his actions throughout the series. The series was Animal Planet's most watched program in the fourth quarter of 2011 and was renewed for a second, 16-episode series that began airing in June 2012. On October 2012, Animal Planet has re-released the series with bonus features and trivia information known as Call of the Wildman: More Live Action.

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Call of the Wildman has been compared to other reality series featuring individuals from the Southern United States such as Billy the Exterminator, Duck Dynasty, Swamp People, and Rocket City Rednecks. Because it depicts Brown's spartan existence in the backwoods of Kentucky, some poverty advocacy groups have expressed concerns that it exploits stereotypical views of Southerners as being poorly educated, poorly groomed, and impoverished. Network executives insist, however, that they have received no negative feedback about the program.

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Season 4 began on August 24, 2014.


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In 2006, the Kentucky Educational Television series Kentucky Afield devoted a portion of their weekly hunting and fishing oriented show to Brown and his turtle catching. The segment was posted on YouTube and went viral; as of June 2012, it had garnered more than 4 million hits. The video and a similar one posted on the web site of the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper attracted the attention of television producer Matt Sharp of Sharp Entertainment. Brown relates that, while performing as a sideshow at the Mothman Festival in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, a group of executives from Sharp Entertainment and Animal Planet, who were there on an unrelated assignment, approached him about doing a television show. The executives told Brown that they had been trying to get in touch with him for over a year, but that his fellow performers had refused to deliver their messages to him.

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In November 2010, Sharp sent a camera crew to film some of Brown's exploits. After seeing the footage, a producer from Animal Planet visited Brown and challenged him to "entertain [her] for 12 hours". Brown told the Herald-Leader that he took the producer on an outing in which he caught 11 turtles and a catfish. Following the producer's visit, Animal Planet decided to air a series of 12 half-hour episodes featuring Brown. Originally given the working title The Turtleman of Wild Kentucky, the name was changed to Call of the Wildman – a reference to Brown's signature yell. Brown describes the yell as "an Indian yell" and explains, "I got a quarter Shawnee and a quarter Cherokee. The other quarter is white man – that's a Yankee, Union – and another quarter is Confederate". In addition, Brown frequently uses the catchphrase "Live action!" during the series. He explains that "'Live action' means there's no faking. People have been calling me fake, and there ain't no fake. Go ahead and try it! We're doing it live action."


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Despite his "Turtleman" nickname, Brown catches all types of nuisance animals, including raccoons, skunks, snakes, venomous spiders, and possums. His animal catching technique is designed to protect both himself and the animal from harm. Once he captures an animal, he relocates it to a safer location in the wild. For his services, he typically only receives an amount sufficient to cover the cost of gasoline to drive to and from his destination.

In each episode of Call of the Wildman, Brown is accompanied by his best friend, Neal James, and his dog, Lolly. James serves as the secretary for Brown's business, fielding telephone calls from individuals in need of his services. Lolly has been Brown's pet ever since he rescued her from wandering the streets in the aftermath of a 2009 ice storm. He doesn't know her exact breed, but he believes her to be part Border Collie and part Australian Cattle Dog. Some episodes also feature other friends who help Brown – "Turtle Team" – including handyman Jake Ison and David "Squirrel" Brady. In some cases involving rats and the like, Brown also enlisted the help of a rat snake that lived on or near his property, Sir Lancelot. The snake died of unknown causes, possibly old age, in an episode aired in late 2014.

Detractors of the series have stated that while Ernie Brown does actually catch the animals with his hands (meaning it is not computer generated), the scenarios and animal catching scenes are scripted and faked using appropriated animals instead of naturally occurring events. In 2013, the city of Danville, Kentucky released a report an investigation which found that the city parks department and the crew failed to obtain the required approvals before they released poisonous snakes into a Danville public pool in order to stage an apparent infestation of poisonous snakes in the city pools there. In addition, the director of the Kentucky Reptile Zoo, Jim Harrison, identified the species of snakes which were used in the scene which are not indigenous to the area where the scene was filmed, meaning that it was impossible for the scene to have occurred naturally.

After a seven-month investigation, Mother Jones published an expose of the show which includes testimony and supporting evidence that the crew obtained an opossum from a wildlife rescue in order to fake a supposed wildlife infestation at a fraternity house in Lexington, and that an infant raccoon died from an apparent lack of appropriate food and medical care after being in the possession of Ernie Brown for several days amongst numerous other actions alleged against Brown and crew.


A 2012 press release from Animal Planet announced that Call of the Wildman was the network's most popular show in the fourth quarter of 2011, garnering almost 780,000 viewers, and had been renewed for a second season consisting of 16 episodes, including a special episode to air during the network's "Monster Week". The release further noted that, in the second season, the show would film in locations other than Kentucky, naming Louisiana as an example. The episode "Baby Mama Drama", which aired July 8, 2012, set a record for the show's largest audience ever, an estimated 1.6 million, according to the network.

The popularity of Call of the Wildman has prompted Brown's appearance on several television programs, including two visits to The Tonight Show. Shortly after telling his hometown newspaper, the Lebanon Enterprise that he wanted to meet CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper, Brown was invited to appear on an episode of Cooper's show, Anderson Cooper 360°. He told the paper he still has a dream of being on the cover of Rolling Stone.

Associated Press writer Dylan Lovan pointed out that Call of the Wildman was part of a growing number of similarly-themed reality shows that included Animal Planet's Hillbilly Handfishin', A&E's Billy the Exterminator, Duck Dynasty, History's Swamp People. The Washington Post's Roger Catlin pointed out that many of the shows feature individuals from the Southern United States and include pejorative terms like "redneck" and "hillbilly" in their titles; in addition to "Hillbilly Handfishin'", he cited National Geographic Channel's Rocket City Rednecks and CMT's My Big Redneck Vacation. Lovan noted that "Brown fits the mold of the distinct Southern characters who populate cable TV", noting that he lives in a small home with no television or phone service, is missing his front teeth, and carries a foot-long Bowie knife he nicknamed "Thunder".

Ted Ownby of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture stated that he believes producers of shows such as Call of the Wildman "build on preexisting stereotypes, so they don't need to build characters", and added that "people of the South get frustrated at the narrow range of representations [of them]". Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, expressed his concern that the shows approach "the thin line between an honest documentary and exploitative reality show". Animal Planet president Marjorie Kaplan insisted, "We haven't received any negative response at all" to the show. Commenting on the potential for the show to advance negative stereotypes of Southerners, Animal Planet executive Dawn Sinsel added, "As with all shows that explore a subculture of America that people might not be familiar with, we're careful to make sure that we represent the talent in their true colors and not 'cover up' their natural character. Turtleman likes to catch all types of animals. We hope Ernie's carefree and loyal personality and love of animals will replace any stereotypes." Brown himself commented "You either like the show and watch it, or you don't. I'm not doing anything wrong, just cheering people up."

In August 2013, Kentucky Fish and Wildlife sent Ernie Brown a warning letter that some of his actions on the show were a violation of his Nuisance Wildlife Control Officer permit, and that any future violations could result in the revocation of his permit and/or a citation

Since the release of the Mother Jones report on January 21, 2014 Kentucky state agencies have increased scrutiny of Mr. Brown because some records filed with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife that detailed what was captured, released and euthanized on Call of the Wildman appear to have been falsified, according to the Mother Jones report. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is also reviewing the situation in order to determine whether violations of the Animal Welfare Act were made by the production company and film crew by not having appropriate federal licensing to display regulated animals on television according to a statement by Tanya Espinosa, a spokeswoman of the USDA. Both the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have weighed in on the issue, and are demanding an immediate investigation by the USDA regarding the allegations of improper treatment of animals filmed for the program, and the lack of proper licensing during the filming of several episodes. Plans are also underway to file state and local lawsuits with state and local wildlife humane officers regarding the mistreatment of animals alleged in the report.

Because of the controversy, Call of the Wildman no longer airs in Canada. As of April 2015, the show is now airing again in Canada on Animal Planet.


Re-runs of episodes are enhanced with facts and trivia with behind-the-scenes information, and even additional scenes. These are called "More Live Action" episodes.


Call of the Wildman Wikipedia