Snake expert says "Turtleman" show staged cottonmouth scene

A snake expert in Kentucky says a scene involving cottonmouths found at a Danville pool was staged by Animal Planet producers.

The Turtleman, Ernie Brown Jr.

DANVILLE, Ky. (WKYT) - It's a frightening discovery, venomous snakes found in and around a community pool. That's what Ernie Brown Jr., famously known as "Turtleman", found during an episode of his popular show Call of the Wildman, which runs on Animal Planet

The show aired Sunday night but now some experts are questioning if it was staged. The director of The Kentucky Reptile Zoo says what viewers witnessed may have been entertaining, but he says it wasn't entirely accurate.

During the season two premier Turtleman came face to face with two cottonmouths at the Danville community pool. But snake expert Jim Harrison says there's no way those snakes should have been there in the first place.

"Cottonmouths are not found east of The Jackson Purchase, basically they're in Western Kentucky," Harrison said.

He says he received numerous calls from worried Danville residents asking if they should be on the lookout for cottonmouths.

"I told them 'Well, those were staged, it's TV,' but they were still freaked out."

Harrison says the snakes were brought in for the show's taping. Representatives with Animal Planet deny that claim. They said none of the snakes in the episode were brought to the pool.

Officials with the Danville Parks Department said they didn't have a snake problem and said any questions about the show should be directed to the producers.

Harrison, who has worked with Animal Planet in the past, says he has seen staging in wildlife reality shows.

"Right now the dejour is everything is over the top. It's like danger, danger, danger, attack, attack, attack," Harrison said.

On the show the Turtleman took a hands on approach with those snakes, grabbing them by their tails and behind the head. Harrison says that type of behavior could get someone hurt.

"My problem is when it comes to my field, and it comes to my field when I have to worry about children who are getting bit because they watch reckless behavior and don't realize these animals are staged," he said.


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