What happened to Turtleman Ernie Brown Jr? Dead or alive? Wiki/bio, net worth, kids.

As innocent and slow turtles may seem they possess lethal bites that can cause serious injuries. While normal people would not want to mess with the creature Ernie Brown Jr. is not just anyone. Over the years he caught thousands of “monster snapping turtles” without any help of equipment and using just bare hands. And while there is no such thing as a turtle-catching job or profession Ernie Jr. got into the very profession led by his passion. As they say, “Fortune Favors the Brave,” Ernie Jr. not just made a living out of it but also garnered huge fame. In this article, we will bring everything to know about Ernie Brown Jr.

Ernie Brown Jr. is an American reality TV star and woodsman from Kentucky. He is also known as “The Turtleman” because of his skill and passion for catching snapping turtles with his bare hands. He started catching turtles when he was seven years old and became famous after a video of his turtle-catching technique went viral on YouTubeHe starred in the Animal Planet series Call of the Wildman from 2011 to 2014, where he operated a nuisance animal removal business with his friend Neal James and his dog Lolly.

Ernie Brown Jr.

Early Life

Ernie Lee Brown Jr. was born on March 28, 1965, in Kentucky, United States. He is the son of  Ernie Lee Brown Sr. and Lola Jane Brown. Ernie Jr. spent much of his childhood exploring the woods and learning the ways of animals in his hometown. He grew up alongside his siblings Tim Brown, Joe Brown, and Lola Fay Brown. He started catching turtles at the age of 7. His fathers Ernie Sr. and uncle, Phillip had their fair share of history catching turtles and helped him in the learning process. Ernie Jr. took an hour to catch his first turtle. He caught a 50-pound turtle when he was 12 and since it was too big for Louisville Zoo and rejected an offer to keep it. As a result, Ernie Jr. turned it loose on a green river. He caught even bigger 125 pounds at the age of 17 which is his biggest haul until now.

Career & Progression:

Over the years Ernie Bronw Jr. has done many odd jobs including in farms and factories. However, the one he was passionate about and excelled at was catching turtles. He has been bitten by snapping turtles countless times but his passion for the job kept him going. The technique he uses to catch is just neat without causing harm to the turtles. Other than catching monster turtles he worked to relocate nuisance animals disturbing farms and livestock around Kentucky. In the career that has spanned over 46 years, Ernie Jr has pulled over 12,000 turtles from different muddy ponds.

In addition to turtles, Ernie caught all types of nuisance animals including raccoons, skunks, snakes, venomous spiders, and possums. For his services, he only asked an amount sufficient to cover the gasoline cost in return. His best buddy “Banjoman” Neal James would join him from time to time. Neal James passed away on Feb 1, 2019.

Rise to fame:

He first gained attention through the Kentucky Afield series which showed him catching turtles barehanded. It rapidly went viral on Youtube and came to the attention of Animal Planet producers. He was given a 12-episode  show initially titled “Turtleman of Wild Kentucky”. The show’s name was later changed to “Call of the Wildman” which references Brown’s distinctive yell as he did every time after catching a snapping turtle. Ernie Jr believes this action gives him the power to catch another one.

Call of the Wildman

Ernie Brown Jr gained popularity outside of Kentucky through the reality show Call of Wildman. The first season premiered on Oct 30, 2011, and it was an instant hit gathering almost 780,000 viewers at its peak. It was the most popular show on the channel in the fourth quarter of 2011. The episode “Baby Mama Drama” holds a record for getting the highest audience of 1.6 million viewers which aired on July 8, 2012.

Ernie Brown Jr along with his late buddy Neal James Banjoman
Ernie Brown Jr along with his late buddy Neal James Banjoman

After four seasons “Call of the Wildman” got canceled in 2014 during which Ernie made 72 episode appearances.

Metting CNN Anchor

The popularity of the Turtleman was beyond his expectations. Ernie Jr. expressed his desire to meet CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper in an interview with the local newspaper Lebanon Enterprise. After the news reached Anderson Cooper he was invited by him. He also made guest appearances on several other television programs, including four visits to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

Recent works:

Ernie Jr. has not made any big television role after his lead role on “Call Of the Wildman.” He is now focused on Youtube where he has released the show “Turtleman’s Hunt For Big Foot” on his channel named Turtleman Official Channel. The series has ten episodes with the last one released on January 17, 2022. Also pouncing on his popularity, Ernie Brown Jr. sells different Merchandise and earns from meet and greets with his fans. 

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

Ernie Brown Jr. describes himself as the poorest famous guy around who has a net worth of $200 thousand. If there was a scale to compare his popularity and wealth then the claim might as well come true.

Personal Life:

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.

Ernie Brown Jr The Turtleman and his ex wife Debbie
Ernie Brown Jr “The Turtleman” and his ex-wife Debbie

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. 

Ernie Brown Jr daughters
Ernie Brown Jr daughters Courtney Brown (R) and Megan Brown(L)

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 Brown Jr youngest daughter Meghan Brown and Mother Lola Bron
Ernie Brown Jr youngest daughter Megan Brown and mother Lola Brown aka Turtle Mom

Ernie advocates for Juvenile Diabetes and has been involved in fundraising and awareness in support of other children like his.

Who is Ernie Brown Jr. wife now?

Turtleman is currently married to Suzanne Brown who calls herself “Tutrlemansgirl.” It is not known if the pair have any kids from the marriage.

Ernie Brown Jr. and his partner Suzanne Brown

Accident and injury

Catching Turtle is a dangerous job sometimes even for Ernie Brown Jr. He has been receiving end of turtle bites many times. Among the most vicious, one of the snapping turtles bit him on the thumb resulting in seven stitches. Another time he was bitten on the pulse in the wrist and had to get cauterized which kept him out of work for like seven months.

He also suffered injuries other than turtle bites, two of them in workplace accidents. While Ernie was clearing the bush a guy with a chainsaw swinging around hit him in the face. He needed 189 stitches and lost a few teeth. During another workplace accident, he was working on the roof of a building in Ohio and something from below blew sending a piece of scrap metal toward him and catching him in the jaw. That day he lost most of his teeth with only seven intact. He also has encountered a car accident.

In more accidents counts, 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.

To summarize, Ernie Brown Jr is an unfortunate guy when it comes to the accident and injuries but he maintains what he can control to keep himself healthy. Brown Jr keeps himself away from drinking habits and neither does drugs.

Is Ernie Brown Jr. dead or alive?

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.

Wiki/Bio Facts:

Full nameErnie Lee Brown Jr.
Date of BirthMarch 28, 1965
Age57 years old
Place of BirthKentucky, United States
CareerTelevision Personality
Net worth$200,000
Marital StatusMarried
WifeSuzanne Brown
ChildrenCourtney Brown, Megan Brown
ParentsErnie Lee Brown Sr., Lola Jane Brown
SiblingsTim Brown, Joe Brown, and Lola Fay Brown.
Zodiac SignAries
Social Media HandleFacebook


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