Jim Fowler, who introduced the world to exotic wildlife on the long-running TV series Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, has died. He was 87 years old and passed at his home in Norwalk, Conn., according to his family, who didn’t reveal the cause of death.
Show sponsor Mutual of Omaha saluted Fowler today with a tweet. “We honor Jim Fowler, who passed away on May 8, 2019. Jim was a true wildlife icon.”
Fowler was a zoologist whose exploits included becoming the first man to successfully trap a harpy eagle and bring it back alive in the US. His show delved into animals and their world with deep respect, teaching conservation long before it was fashionable to the mainstream.
He was also known for his frequent guest spots on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Fowler appeared as a guest more than 100 times, usually bringing along an unusual animal that would interact with a slightly nervous Carson, often with hilarious results. Fowler became a fast friend of Carson based on his appearances, later taking him to Africa after his retirement.
Fowler also was the wildlife expert on NBC’s Today and is remembered for a classic episode of Seinfeld where he appeared on a Merv Griffin-esque talk show hosted by Kramer in his apartment.
Before starting his journey on Wild Kingdom in 1963, Fowler worked at a raptor sanctuary in Florida. He initially co-hosted the show with Marlon Perkins, becoming the solo host in 1985, when Perkins retired, through the show’s end in 1988. Wild Kingdom was later revived in 2002 and aired until 2011.
Fowler is survived by his wife, a wildlife artist, and children Mark and Carrie. No memorial details have been revealed.