Call of the Wildman is a popular show about a wild-critter trapper on Animal Planet. It's also totally fake, with animals trucked-in and treated brutally. And Mother Jones, the magazine that first exposed Wildman's dark side, has new photo evidence that it screwed with some poor caged coyote for ratings.

The picture above, obtained by MJ from an inside source, shows a coyote that apparently lived in the wild until it was trapped by a paid handler for use on the show... and confined in a too-small cage trap, and left to get sick, until the show producers decided it was too sick to use on camera as a "wild coyote," at which point they had another "wild" coyote flown in from across the country, probably illegally. Reporter James West summarizes his findings:

  • A photo obtained by Mother Jones from a person who worked on the production shows a coyote that was captured at the request of producers and held in a cramped trap for an unknown period of time prior to filming on location in Kentucky, according to the person who provided the photo. By the time of the shoot, according to two people who worked on the production, the coyote was "sick and unresponsive" and had to be replaced.
  • According to internal production documents and communications obtained by Mother Jones, the show quickly brought in a replacement coyote for the shoot from Ohio. Kentucky law, with rare exception, forbids the importation of coyotes.
  • According to internal documents and data analysis of the photo, the sick coyote had been held captive for more than three days after it was trapped by a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator working for the show. Without a specific permit—which the NWCO working for the show did not have—Kentucky regulations forbid holding captured wildlife for more than 48 hours.
  • Mother Jones has also obtained government documents showing that state wildlife regulators began warning the show's star about violations in March 2012—more than a year before Sharp Entertainment, the producer of the show, says that it first became aware of complaints about animal mistreatment in connection with Call of the Wildman.

This sort of business is nothing new for Wildman, the allegedly real adventures of Ernie "Turtleman" Brown Jr., who is depicted on the show as a colorful redneck who rids beleaguered homeowners and small-biz owners of their feral invasive problem animals. But as West's seven-month investigation has shown, the TV show's scenarios are staged events in which the "wild" animals are dumped by producers into the shot for maximum dramatic effect—and with little regard for the wellbeing of the raccoons, wallabies, bats, zebras, and now coyotes they use.

West's latest investigation showed pretty conclusively that the coyote above had been caged for three days before anyone from the show even bothered to give him a look:

According to the person who provided the photo, the coyote was captured by a NWCO at the request of the show and "was transported for hours in cramped conditions." Where the coyote was then held and under what conditions could not be confirmed, but as the May 10 film shoot approached the coyote was weak and limping, the source said. It would be brought to the filming location anyway. "That bit sickens me," the source said. A second person who worked on the production confirmed that the coyote was sluggish and unresponsive as the film shoot approached. "The animal was just sitting there, so they had to get another coyote fairly quickly," that second source said.

Further investigation suggests that the trapper of this animal, and the other ones paid for trapping by the show, are licensed "nuisance wildlife control operators." But NCWOs are supposed to log their catches in with the state that licenses them—and according to Kentucky records, "the NWCO working for the show did not report the capture of a coyote during a nuisance call on or around that date."

That would seem to contradict what the show studio's vice president told West: "On the day in question you bring up, a licensed NWCO officer arrived to a location with a coyote he had caught after receiving a nuisance call, and when he brought it to us, the licensed NWCO officers on set moved it from the smaller cage it was caught in to an appropriately sized cage."

Shown a picture of the coyote, a wildlife ecology professor told the magazine that he probably didn't get inside that cage of its own accord, adding: "I would only use a cage this size for transportation or holding purposes as a last resort."

Full photo is below; a trapped possum in the same size cage is visible in the background:

[Photos via Mother Jones]