Report: Turtleman TV show faked a snake in Danville pool; filming wasn't approved

meads@herald-leader.comJune 25, 2013 

NXT-TURTLEMAN

Ernie Brown Jr., left, known as Animal Planet's "Turtleman," and his right-hand man Neal James star in Animal Planet's TV series Call of the Wildman.

LEBANON TOURIST & CONVENTION COMMISSION/MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE

DANVILLE — The city parks department failed to obtain required approvals to film an episode of Animal Planet's Wildman at the public pool where a poisonous snake was released and then captured by Kentucky's "Turtleman," a new report said.

The city of Danville released a report of its investigation of the filming of the reality TV show Call of the Wildman. The program often features Ernie Brown Jr., known as the Turtleman, cornering unwanted animals and using unconventional methods of capture.

Necessary authorization was not obtained before the filming, and the proper authorities did not sign off on the production, according to the report by City Manager Ron Scott.

Director of Danville-Boyle County Parks and Recreation John Drake signed the production company's agreement to use the pool

The report also concluded that the snakes were brought into the pool area, accompanied by a medic, and then were captured by Brown. The show left viewers with the impression that one snake was found in the pool and that others were on the property.

The Turtleman could not be reached for comment. In an interview for Cincinnati.com, a publicist intervened when Brown was asked about Danville.

In a telephone interview, freelance producer Karl Hollandt had the same reply for Herald-Leader questions about planning, production and filming of the episode.

When asked if a snake was found in the pool, if animals were brought in for the show and if he was involved in location planning, Hollandt repetitively said: "All I can say is that Turtleman was called with a problem and he came out to help."

The findings in Scott's report painted a different picture.

The episode portrayed the city of Danville negatively and could impede community growth, Scott said. The pool on city property is jointly financed by Danville and Boyle County, but an independent board runs it.

Scott's report said it didn't appear anyone was compensated for approving the filming.

The report suggested changing the city law that dictates who can approve filming on city land because the current ordinance is unclear, according to the report.

Pursuing legal action against the producers and network was recommended, but the city's Board of Commissioners concluded that such action would bring more negative attention to Danville, Scott said.

Boyle County Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said there are still a number of factors in the show's filming that he wants to review.

"I don't want to keep dragging this out, but on the same token, I don't want a repeat of anything like this," McKinney said.

McKinney wants more information about the circumstances surrounding the decision to use the pool.

"We introduced poisonous snakes into a public swimming pool," McKinney said. "That is not good policy and it's just not a good idea."

Some members of the Board of Parks and Recreation were informally told about the episode, but the board was not approached as a whole, according to the report.

McKinney said it is important to find out who knew about the show's filming and why the plans were not presented to the full parks board.

The Parks and Recreation board is standing behind employee Drake and supports his decisions, chairman of the board Heather Wheeler said.

"We have moved on," Wheeler said. "We are focusing on the positive things going on at our parks, and there are a lot of positive things going on under John Drake."

Morgan Eads: (859) 231-3335. Twitter: @heraldleader

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