Local Coverage

Jun 4, 2013 6:47 PM by Josh Breslow

TV's Turtleman Stirs Up Controversy With Latest Episode

The latest episode of a popular cable television program that features a well-known Kentucky native has stirred up controversy and led to some panic in one Central Kentucky town.

The adventures of Ernie Brown Jr. of Lebanon are the focus of Animal Planet's "Call Of The Wildman." On Sunday night, The Turtleman, as he's known, was brought in to remove several venomous Cottonmouth snakes from what he identifies as the Danville-Boyle County community pool.

"They put the fangs into you, pump you full of venom, and then you have to go to the hospital. You could even die," the Turtleman says of the snakes.

Jim Harrison, the director at Kentucky's Reptile Zoo in Slade tells LEX 18 that the morning after the episode aired, his phone started ringing off the hook. On the other end, he says, dozens of worried folks in Danville.

"The fear mongering is horrible," Harrison said. "By the fourth call, I finally got somebody to say, 'I saw this on TV' and the first thing that went through my mind was Turtleman."

Harrison says Cottonmouth snakes are only found in Western Kentucky and he claims the episode was a fake.

"I know it's staged. I've staged stuff for Animal Planet," Harrison said.

The director of Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation admits to the staging, saying the program used the pool while it was closed and the TV crew brought the snakes.

Over the phone, however, a former field producer with the show claims the whole thing was reality.

Josh Breslow: "The situation was not staged?"
Kori Frederick, Former Field Producer: "No. They called us because they had some kids that had supposedly seen some snakes so we went in there and filmed what you saw."

So is it real? Fake? That's for you to decide.

LEX 18 reached out to Turtleman and we were told to contact Animal Planet for comment. As of Tuesday evening, we have not heard back.

As for those who have commented on our Facebook page that you have seen Cottonmouth snakes in Central Kentucky, the director at Kentucky's Reptile Zoo says what you are seeing are actually water snakes, not Cottonmouths. He invites anyone with questions to give a call at their Powell County office.


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