Animal Planet’s scandal-prone series Call of the Wildman — a show that follows a self-professed “wildlife rescuer” calling himself Turtleman — is currently under investigation for animal cruelty by the US Department of Agriculture for among other things, drugging an endangered zebra and caging a sick coyote. State and federal authorities are also looking into animal welfare claims about malnourished raccoons, one of which later died. And now, it seems, the show has gone too far: too far onto one Kentucky landscaper’s private property, that is.
In an episode called “Call in the Cavalry,” Turtleman (aka Ernie Brown, Jr.) and his “Turtle Team” construct an elaborate treehouse out of “locally sourced” materials from the private property of J.D. Long, a 56-year old landscaper and nurseryman from the tiny hamlet of Liberty, Kentucky. Long says that the show’s producers illegally trespassed on his property, chopped down his trees and dammed up his creek while building the treehouse on his property.
Long’s sister, who lives on the property, explicitly told the show’s producers that they weren’t allowed. Long says that the crew cut valuable, irreplacable wood and that they also allegedly chipped away at the rock face of a waterfall before damming up one of his creeks with homemade concrete.
Several months after filming, Long discovered that cranes had come in the middle of the night to dismantle the tree house, and then someone then set the treehouse’s remains on fire. “They could have set the whole mountain on fire,” Long told Mother Jones. “That’s what got me. I was really aggravated.”
Long’s neighbor Rodney Finn admitted to building and later demolishing the tree house himself. In court documents, he described himself as “an associate” of Turtleman and told police that he rented a crane to try and move the treehouse, but that it broke apart in the process. Finn called the whole thing a mistake, saying that he thought the cabin was on his own property to begin with. He offered Long $1,000 as an apology but Long declined. Long is now suing Finn, Animal Planet and parent company Discovery Communications, the show’s production company and the cast of Call of the Wildman.