Update: Kentucky officials had actually previously warned Call the the Wildman‘s star the he to be breaking the law. Read more.

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By the moment three orphaned raccoons arrived for emergency care at the Kentucky Wildlife center in April 2012, “they to be emaciated,” states Karen Bailey, that runs the nonprofit rehab clinic collection in the clear thoroughbred nation just outside of Georgetown, in main Kentucky. “They were almost dead.”


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Also read “The Cruelest present on Earth,” our yearlong investigation right into elephant abuse at the Ringling Bros. Circus.

A rapid talker with ashy blond hair and an easy laugh, Bailey is a newborn raccoon specialist. She also takes in injured or abandoned opossums, otters, and skunks. Though she cares for as much as 800 pets every year—including approximately 300 baby raccoons—she is haunted by the storage of those 3 gaunt cubs.

These weren’t just any raccoons. They to be the stars of one of the highest-rating illustration of Call of the Wildman, the hit animal Planet reality TV show.

When cubs room in such bad shape, Bailey says, “It’s a race versus time.” The pets were incubated and also intubated, fed fluids and antibiotics. As a desperate effort, Bailey administered blood plasma and managed to conserve two of the raccoons—”a miracle.” 

“Guided Reality”

With a marquee Sunday night slot, Call of the Wildman routinely attracts much more than a million viewers; for the 4th quarter the 2011, it to be the network’s most-watched series. As soon as the episode about the raccoon cubs, “Baby Mama Drama,” aired in July 2012, it pulled in 1.6 million viewers to end up being the show’s highest-rating episode approximately that point. Many thanks in part to Call the the Wildman, exploration Communications, animal Planet’s parental company, was amongst the optimal three fastest-growing ad-supported cable networks in 2012. The trend continued in 2013.

With three periods under its belt, Call that the Wildman is component of animal Planet’s ongoing transition away from education programming to reality TV. “We’re not looking to be a natural history channel,” animal Planet team president Marjorie Kaplan told the New York Times in 2008. “We’re looking to it is in an to chat destination.” The network freshly aired two documentary-style programs purporting to present evidence the mermaids are real.


A mother Jones examination reveals many instances the alleged pet mistreatment, the result of what sources define as cavalier and neglectful manufacturing practices.

For Call that the Wildman, pet Planet teamed up v a production agency called spicy Entertainment, which specialization in what has become known as “guided reality”: mirrors that unearth outlandish characters and also heavily develop their stories. Various other hits in its catalogue include Doomsday Preppers, Punkin Chunkin (about the cult sports of catapulting pumpkins), and Extreme Couponing. Call the the Wildman follows the exploits the Ernie Brown Jr., a.k.a. “Turtleman,” a wily wildlife rescuer indigenous Lebanon, Kentucky, “armed with country wits together sharp together the steel blade he carries.” attract a broad-brimmed hat and also displaying a toothless grin, Turtleman records critters causing headaches because that homeowners or businesses, v his girlfriend Neal James in tow—and constantly with his ceiling hands.

Animal Planet’s parental company, exploration Communications, states, “Our appointment to an innovative and fix up programming is matched only by our steadfast commitment come honesty and integrity in every little thing we do,” and that discovery expects home builders “to comply with comparable ethical and also legal standards.” but the raccoon incident is just one of countless instances on Call that the Wildman sets of alleged animal mistreatment and possible infringements the state and federal law, the result of what sources define as cavalier and also neglectful manufacturing practices. A seven-month Mother Jones investigation—which drew on internal documents, interviews with eight people associated with the show’s production, and also government records—reveals evidence of a culture that tolerated legally and ethically dubious activities, including: using an animal that had actually been drugged v sedatives in violation of commonwealth rules; directing trappers to procure wild animals, i beg your pardon were then “caught” again as part of a script; and also wrongly filling out legal records detailing the crew’s wildlife activities for Kentucky officials.

When asked around these allegations, pet Planet arranged because that an interview through Sharp entertain that additionally included Matthew Hiltzik, a peak Manhattan dilemm manager who has worked for celebrities choose Justin Bieber. The producers said that they have investigated allegations of animal mistreatment that were carried to their fist last might by a staffer. “We’ve always made the humane therapy of pets our optimal priority,” states Dan Adler, a Sharp senior vice president.

Sharp says that after the allegations concerned light, it introduced brand-new written guidelines because that the ar crew, and, because that the first time, hired an on-set licensed animal handler once shooting began again around May 22 critical year.

Yet Adler said the network has actually no intentionally to traction the illustration in question, which are still easily accessible for download and also in reruns. “What we found out around in those investigations made us feel comfortable v airing the shows,” he says. Sharp didn’t see fit come fire any kind of employees together a an outcome of the investigation.

In that interview and in follow-up emails, the producers admitted the some animals had to be improperly handled, yet blamed most wrongdoing on subcontractors. “The human who is offering that animal for manufacturing is responsible for adhering come those legal requirements,” says Patricia Kollappallil, an elderly vice chairman for communications for pet Planet. 

The Raccoon “Rescue”

In the raccoon segment, Turtleman’s difficulty is to trap an pet that is terrorizing a Kentucky household and, we’re told, may carry rabies. The voiceover warns, “Turtleman’s examination is this critter’s last chance to protect against an untimely death.”

Brown and also James find the pet in the to wash room and, in a dramatic catch sequence, Turtleman roughhouses and also bags it. He climate learns the actual problem: “Fluffy doesn’t have rabies—she’s got babies!” With lot hammy suspense, Turtleman tote the caged mother roughly like a metal detector, trying to get her to speak to to her cubs under the house. As always, there’s a happy ending—mom and cubs safe at a wildlife sanctuary, a household no much longer under siege: “We had actually no idea the there to be babies under the house. That was together a surprise!” homeowner Tina Merrick claims on camera.

In fact, similar to much of high-drama fact TV, the segment was concocted. Michael O’Bryan, the vet at Broadbent Wildlife Sanctuary, where the raccoons were taken to be filmed after ~ the rescue, called me the “mother raccoon” was actually a male. (Sharp called me they “cannot affirm through certainty the gender of the raccoon.”)

Three sources involved with the present confirmed that producers typically procure pets from ranches or trappers and also put castle in fake rescue situations, on to adjust tailored come specification.

Sharp producers even go so far as to make fake animal droppings utilizing Nutella, Snickers bars, and rice.

“It was component of my task to call about people come trap pets at the direction the Sharp,” claims Jamie, who functioned on the show. (Jamie’s name has actually been changed. Sharp Entertainment requires numerous employees and also participants to authorize confidentiality agreements that contact for as much as $1 million in loss if breached.) “It’s 100 percent fake,” claimed a second production source.

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In other words, the raccoons were not “found” under the house, nor rejoined with their mother. They to be performers in a Call that the Wildman script.