Why Animal Planet Planted Live Bats in a Montrose Beauty Salon

2015 W. Alabama St., Montrose, Houston

Jazzy Girls Beauty Boutique, 2015 W. Alabama St., Montrose, HoustonAn episode of Animal Planet’s hit show Call of the Wildman that aired 5 months ago featured the show’s star Ernie Brown Jr. (who goes by the nickname “Turtleman”) and his sidekick Neal James ridding a Montrose beauty salon of an infestation of about 20 Mexican free-tailed bats. The escapade filmed in the back storage rooms of the Jazzy Girls Beauty Boutique on West Alabama St. just east of Shepherd was only one of several dozens of purported animal rescues performed by Turtleman “with his bare hands” in the course of the top-rated Sunday night cable TV show, which is now in its third season. In the other segment of the episode, called “Bat Hair Day,” he rescues a raccoon from a cave.

The supposedly cruelty-free “live action” Montrose winged-creature extrication, which was filmed in April, was reported locally in the Chronicle and Culturemap as another quirky Turtleman success story shortly before the episode aired in early August. But an investigation published earlier this week by Mother Jones reveals that the show’s creators had themselves planted the bats in the salon to allow them to film Turtleman and his assistant removing them.


Turtleman and Neal James Inside Jazzy Girls Beauty Boutique, 2015 W. Alabama St., Montrose, Houston

The stunt was, according to reporter James West, part of a pattern of questionable and deceptive activity by the show’s producers, which animal experts claim in many instances put animals in danger.

“Animal Planet and [production company Sharp Entertainment] acknowledge that the bats were placed in the salon for the purpose of filming, but they claim that it happened legally,” writes West. According to his research, relocating bats for entertainment purposes violates Texas law. (Mexican free-tailed bats are listed as a “species of special concern” by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Dept.; they’re also Texas’s official state flying mammal.)

Turtleman’s removal work was also incomplete. Weeks after the shooting, according to West’s reporting, a pest control company was contracted by Animal Planet to remove dead bats from the salon — twice. Jazzy Girls shut down its business permanently late last year; the property at 2015 West Alabama is currently listed for lease by Davis Commercial. Former salon owner Velma Trayham, who also goes by “Coco the CEO” in the episode, declined to be interviewed by Mother Jones.

Were any bats present in the building in the first place? A press release put out by Trayham’s own PR firm provides a clue — by consistently referring to a removed creature, in the singular:

Calling on just any exterminator or varmint removal service wouldn’t do for the ever-scrutinizing Trayham. Due to the nature of the uninvited visitor, the extremely squeamish boss lady rather chose to call on none other than the South’s most popular and eccentric animal catcher, Brown. [emphasis added here and below]

Would a search for a single bat be worthy of animal-reality TV? How about, say, 20 bats? Here’s more from the press release, which was sent out a few days before the episode aired:

The popular Animal Planet show along with it’s production crew arrived bright and early at Jazzy Girls Beauty Boutique on the day of the taping to begin an investigation that would help them identify and capture the mystery animal. Greeted by the frantic Velma Trayham, Brown was made to promise that he would apprehend the animal without disturbing patrons of the salon or involving any of the uber feminine staff.

Trayham told Chronicle reporter Alyson Ward in August that she had stayed away from the bat-removal portions of the filming: “’I didn’t know what they were doing,’ Trayham said, waving a manicured hand. ‘I did not want to go back there.'”

A portion of the Jazzy Girls segment has been posted to YouTube:

Below, West introduces his Call of the Wildman exposé:

Photos: LoopNet (building); Discovery Communications (interior shots)

Jazzy Girls Have Left the Building

5 Comment

  • Weird. A guy named Jim Winters used to run a business called The Baseball School out of the backyard, and I always thought his wife owned the salon inside. The baseball tutoring business was sold and moved next door, and I guess they found a useful purpose for the former salon as well.

  • I stopped watching the show for that episode (or there might have been another before it with bats) because he made erroneous statements about bats carrying diseases, which isn’t true for bats as a whole. There were a few other comments that were either wrong or misleading and I didn’t want to watch and support a show that ‘demonized’ these wonderful creatures.

  • I’m sick at Animal Planets treatment of animals; especially of animals that need our help. Bats have a hard enough time dealing with the myths out there. I would think Animal Planet would be sensative to that. However, their “surprisingly human” tag must mean they are after profits, without regard to who they hurt, like any other network.

  • Give AP some credit, at least these show has some appearances of actual animals as apposed to their new branding of ‘Surprisingly Human’. At least its not a show about real mermaids! Our TV has been in a sad state for a while which lead to the growth of niche educational channels, but now the plague has spread there as well.

  • Where did Jazzy Girl’s move to and did they leave because of the bats? I went here the other day and there is a new salon there.