Some people are afraid of spiders, some are afraid of snakes, and some are afraid of turtles. Yes, turtles. Those seemingly harmless shelled creatures that can snap your fingers off with their powerful jaws. But not Ernie Brown Jr. He loves turtles, especially the big ones that can bite through a steel rod. He is the Turtleman, and he has a unique way of catching them: with his bare hands.
Ernie Brown Jr. is not your average woodsman. He is a reality TV star from Kentucky who has been catching snapping turtles since he was a kid. He became an internet sensation when a video of him diving into a murky pond and wrestling a giant turtle out of the water went viral on YouTube. He then landed his own show on Animal Planet, Call of the Wildman, where he and his sidekick Neal James, along with his loyal dog Lolly, helped people get rid of unwanted critters from their properties.
In this article, we will tell you everything you need to know about Ernie Brown Jr., the man who turned his passion for turtles into a career and a legend.
How Did Ernie Lee Brown Jr. Become the Turtleman?
Ernie Lee Brown Jr. inherited his passion for turtles from his father, Ernie Lee Brown Sr., and his uncle, Phillip, who were both seasoned turtle catchers in Kentucky, where he was born on March 28, 1965. Along with his siblings, Tim, Joe, and Lola Fay, Ernie Jr. spent his childhood roaming the woods and observing the wildlife of his hometown. He caught his first turtle at the age of 7, after an hour of struggle, and never looked back. He became a master of the craft, landing turtles of impressive sizes and weights. When he was 12, he caught a 50-pound turtle that was too big for the Louisville Zoo to accommodate, so he decided to release it back into the Green River. His biggest catch came when he was 17, a whopping 125-pound turtle that earned him fame and respect among his peers. Ernie Jr. is a true turtle lover and a legend in his own right.
How Ernie Brown Jr. Turned His Passion into a Career
Ernie Brown Jr. has a long and remarkable career of catching and relocating nuisance animals in Kentucky. He started out doing various odd jobs in farms and factories, but his true passion was catching turtles. He has been bitten by snapping turtles countless times but he never gave up on his love for the job. He developed a neat technique to catch turtles without harming them. Other than catching monster turtles he worked to relocate nuisance animals disturbing farms and livestock around Kentucky.
He caught nuisance animals that disturbed farms and livestock, such as raccoons, skunks, snakes, venomous spiders, and possums. He did not charge much for his services, only enough to cover the gas expenses. He often worked with his best friend, Neal “Banjoman” James, who sadly passed away on Feb 1, 2019. Over 46 years, Ernie Jr. has pulled over 12,000 turtles from different muddy ponds. He became a star of the Animal Planet show Call of the Wildman, which aired from 2011 to 2014.
How Ernie Brown Jr Became the Turtleman of Animal Planet
Ernie Brown Jr rose to fame on the internet with his videos of catching snapping turtles bare-handed on the Kentucky Afield series. His fearless stunts impressed Animal Planet, who gave him a 12-episode reality show called “Turtleman of Wild Kentucky”. The show was later rebranded as “Call of the Wildman” to match Brown’s trademark yell that he used to celebrate every catch. He believed that his yell boosted his energy and luck for catching more turtles.
Call of the Wildman was a smash hit with the audience, who enjoyed watching Brown’s wild adventures. The first season premiered on Oct 30, 2011, and peaked at nearly 780,000 viewers. It was the top-rated show on Animal Planet in the last quarter of 2011. The show achieved its highest ratings on July 8, 2012, when 1.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the episode “Baby Mama Drama”. The show lasted for four seasons and 72 episodes before it was axed in 2014. The Turtleman’s popularity exceeded his expectations. He revealed his wish to meet CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper in an interview with the local newspaper Lebanon Enterprise. Cooper heard about this and invited him over. He also appeared on several other TV shows, including four visits to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
Is Ernie Brown Jr. dead or alive?
Ernie Brown Jr. is a turtle catcher who knows the risks of his profession. He has faced the wrath of snapping turtles many times, leaving him with scars and stitches. One bite nearly cost him his life, as he had to get his wrist cauterized and stay out of work for months. Another time a snapping turtles bit him on the thumb resulting in seven stitches.
But turtles are not the only danger that Ernie has encountered. He has also been unlucky in other situations, such as car and workplace accidents. Once, a chainsaw-wielding co-worker slashed him in the face while clearing the bush, requiring 189 stitches and costing him some teeth. Another time, he was on a rooftop in Ohio when a blast from below hurled a scrap metal at his jaw, leaving him with only seven teeth. He also survived a car crash. In more accident count, in March 2022 Ernie Jr. suffered broken arms and other ailments from being hit by a tree limb just after he had completed cutting and laying down the tree.
Despite all these misfortunes, Ernie Brown Jr. is alive and currently resides in Kentucky, United States. His father, Ernie Brown Sr. passed away at the age of 64 on March 4, 2010. He also lost his sister Lola Fay Brown who died at the age of 50 on Dec 29, 2017.
What is Ernie Brown Jr. Doing Now?
Ernie Jr. has not appeared in any major TV shows since “Call Of the Wildman”. He has shifted his focus to YouTube, where he launched his series called “Turtleman’s Hunt For Big Foot” on his channel, Turtleman Official Channel. The series has ten episodes, with the last one released on January 17, 2022. Ernie Jr. also capitalizes on his fame by selling merchandise and doing meet-and-greets with his fans.
Ernie Brown Jr. Social Media Presence
Ernie Brown Jr. has a moderate social media presence. He has an official Facebook page with over 431,000 followers, where he posts updates about his life, his animal rescues, and his merchandise. He also has a YouTube channel with over 79,000 subscribers, where he uploads videos of his adventures and interviews. He has a private Instagram account. He also interacts with his fans through live events and public appearances, such as the Kentucky State Fair and the Turtleman Festival.
Net Worth: How Rich is Ernie Brown Jr.?
Ernie Brown Jr., who has a net worth of $200 thousand, calls himself the poorest famous guy around. His claim might not be far from the truth if one could measure his wealth and popularity on a scale.
First Wife & divorce:
Ernie Brown Jr. was married to Debbie Brown. During their time together they had two daughters Courtney Brown followed by Megan Brown. It is not known how long the two were married, but the reason why they separated has been talked about in the media. According to Earnie, he had lost many of his teeth in a series of accidents and Debbie divorced him saying she no longer wanted to be married to a man with no teeth. Also, the day his wife left, his home got robbed of all his money and arrowhead collection.
As the story goes, the devastation led Ernie to spend the next six months in the wild. Many assumed he died in the pond while catching turtles, but he came more determined than ever to follow his dream. He went full-time catching turtle job around 2005.
Even though divorced in bitter circumstances, Ernie and Debbie maintained the relationship for the sake of their children. Debbie owned custody of both of their daughters following the divorce. Alongside providing child support Ernie Jr. was involved in their upbringing.
Of two daughters their eldest Courtney suffered from Juvenile diabetes (Type 1) since the age of six. The younger Megan has paralysis in her face and below her neck due to which she can not smile. Growing up both daughters had a gruesome accident as they were run over by a car.
Ernie advocates for Juvenile Diabetes and has been involved in fundraising and awareness in support of other children like his.
Turtleman is currently married to Suzanne Brown who calls herself “Tutrlemansgirl.” It is not known if the pair have any kids from the marriage.