We've got some sad news to report on today, as naturalist and wildlife expert Jim Fowler has reportedly passed away. According to his family, Fowler died at his home in Norwalk, Connecticut on Wednesday at the age of 89. An official cause of death has not yet been revealed. Fowler is perhaps best known for his decades-long run on the TV series Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, where he served as the co-host of the program from its inception in 1963 to 1985. He became the solo host of the show in 1986, earning four separate Emmy Awards and an endorsement by the National PTA for family viewing. He returned as the host of the series once again when Wild Kingdom was revived in 2002.
Born in Georgia and raised in Virginia, Fowler spent his youth exploring nature around his home. Through his zoology studies at Earlham College, Fowler developed a greater appreciation for wildlife. Although highly skilled as an athlete and facing offers to play for the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankies, Fowler chose to pursue a career working with animals instead. He was particularly fascinated with training predatory birds, becoming the first person to successfully trap a harpy eagle and bring it back to the United States alive. His reputation for his work with animals blossomed, leading to Fowler taking his talents to appearances on television.
In early 1963, Fowler was hired as the co-host of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom along with Marlin Perkins. The pair would appear together on the show for over two decades until Perkins retired in 1985, leaving Fowler as the solo host of the series. Of course, Fowler knew what he was getting into when he signed up for the show, as he came in with plenty of wildlife experience. "I worked with animals well before I was on Wild Kingdom, and I learned that if you're gonna fool around with them, you better know what the danger points are," Fowler said in 2015. "For example, a big anaconda down in the Amazon, you gotta know that it'll wrap you tail-first. You don't want to hold the head and leave the tail out there, because if it gets you with the tail around your neck or waist, one that weighs 200-some pounds, you're done for. When you work with a snake that's as big around as an ale keg, you better know what you're doing."
Additionally, Fowler was frequently seen on the NBC network as well. Staring in 1988, he became the official wildlife correspondent for The Today Show and made dozens of appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He had developed a friendship with Johnny Carson during this time, later taking the TV host and his family on a trip to Africa following his retirement. In the late '90s, Fowler could also be seen as the wildlife expert on Discovery Communication's Animal Planet before launching his own TV series Jim Fowler's Life in the Wild in the year 2000.
Fowler's work has greatly benefited the animal kingdom for decades, and his legacy will be remembered for many years to come. Inspired by his contributions, a new generation of wildlife experts will be able to pick up where Fowler left off. It's a heavy loss for the planet, and we send along condolences to Fowler's family and friends at this time. He is survived by his wife Betsey and children Mark and Carrie. May he forever rest in peace. This information comes to us from The Hollywood Reporter.