Animal Planet Show Is Staged, Abusive: Report

Creatures drugged, left near death: Mother Jones investigation

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 21, 2014 11:51 AM CST | Updated Jan 25, 2014 7:01 PM CST

(Newser) – Hit Animal Planet reality show Call of the Wildman features its star, Ernie "Turtleman" Brown Jr., finding and trapping "nuisance" animals, apparently for the benefit of both locals and the creatures themselves. But the "reality" of the show is questionable, according to a Mother Jones investigation: The animals he catches are often brought to the production site, sometimes after being removed from their homes in the wild. That's just one of the moral and legal issues tied to the show, which has also been linked to illegally drugging animals, incorrectly filing official forms, and leaving creatures near death or worse.

Mother Jones recounts an episode in which Turtleman traps a raccoon at a house in Kentucky, apparently offering it a "last chance to avoid an untimely death" amid concerns it may have rabies. In the show, it turns out the animal actually has babies. But in reality, the animal is a male and the cubs were brought on set: "We paid a trapper to put cages around the state, and then caged them for multiple days, and then put them in an enclosed setting and had Ernie…capture them," says an insider. After filming, the babies were "almost dead" and had to be brought to a clinic, says the clinic's head; one didn't survive. In another case, a zebra was sedated while on set; producers say they weren't the ones who drugged it. Network and production bosses say that scenes are staged, but they argue that the animals used would otherwise be at risk of euthanasia. Click for the full investigation.

In this May 17, 2012, photo, Ernie "Turtleman" Brown holds a snapping turtle he pulled from a pond in Lebanon, Ky.   (AP Photo/Dylan Lovan)
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