Escaping zombies in the wilderness: how to find your meat.

I’ve already told you how to find plants to eat.  Plants are a great source of carbohydrates, but as far as protein goes they’re less useful than a penny in Beverly Hills.  To make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need you’ll want to add meat to your diet when you’re surviving.

This means you’ll need to be able to make fire for cooking in order to kill all the bacteria in the meat you find, otherwise you risk food poisoning.  I’m assuming that you’re already carrying a lighter on you at all times, in case the emergency hits while you’re not at home.  You should also be carrying matches in your survival satchel.  That will make building a fire relatively easy.

The hard part is acquiring meat.  Contrary to what Disney may have taught you, wild animals do not stand out in the middle of a field with big Bambi eyes waiting to be killed.  Wild animals, especially prey species, have evolved a sense of paranoia that make them remarkably difficult to find, let alone kill.  This is compounded by the fact that you probably don’t want to discharge a firearm if you don’t have to, since it would announce your location to every zed in the state.

I found this image in a folder labeled “Shit that will never, ever happen.”

The first thing you want to do when you’re in the wilderness is walk downhill.  This isn’t just to preserve your stamina, it’s because downhill eventually leads to water, which you need to survive.  Animals also require water to survive, so not only are you looking after yourself, you’re also putting yourself next to potential food sources.

So let’s go with the simple method of satisfying your body’s need for protein first: insects.  Yeah, it sounds gross, but get over yourself.  There are plenty of countries where people eat insects by choice like Peru, Venezuela, Botswana, Thailand, Indonesia, China, Australia, Japan, and Mexico.  You’re here to survive, not to live like a king.  You’re here because the zeds aren’t.  That means that worms, grasshoppers, crickets, ants (all of which can be safely eaten) and all their relatives are your new caviar.  Bugs are readily available and most of them are edible raw, though cooking is always safest.

So let’s talk about cooking them.  If you can find a cooking pot of any sort it is a simple matter to fill it with water, put it over your fire, and start making a stew.  See a worm?  Toss it into the pot and forget about it.  See a roly poly?  Throw it into the pot and forget about it.  By the end of the day you have a stew and you’re still not a zombie.  Count your blessings.

You could also consider fishing.  Be careful about this as bodies of water are generally open, making you much more visible.  Add in all the splashing around and you’re taking a risk by fishing.  But if you think you’re safe, the first thing you need is a rudimentary spear.  Find a downed branch and get to carving.  If you can, make a spear with multiple sharpened tines on the end to give you the best chance to hit a fish.

Once you have your spear, you want to wade into the water no deeper than waist-deep.  You want to have room to swing your spear.  Wait with the spear raised overhead for a fish to come by, slowly move the spear toward the water, and strike.  Remember: water refracts the light, so you’ll actually want to aim lower than your fish if you want the spear to connect.

You could also dig around for bird eggs.  Many birds don’t lay eggs in a nest but rather in a hole in the ground, so as long as you can beat a coyote to them you have dinner.  It’s against the law in most states to eat bird eggs in the wilderness, but the police will either all be zombies or be occupied with the zombie menace, which means those eggs are fair game.

Of course, if you are an experienced hunter and trapper (beyond hunting frozen food in your grocer’s freezer), you should employ all those techniques.  But for most of us, we’ll need to keep things as simple as possible.

Trying to survive a zombie apocalypse? Going to New Mexico is like playing on hard mode.

Alright, I know I owe you guys a post on how to secure your own meat in the wild, but I saw this post on reddit and it would’ve made me cry if I weren’t too tough for tears.  It’s someone arguing that New Mexico would be the ideal place to survive a zombie apocalypse.

The first reason he gives is the terrain:

NM terrain
Wow! What could be more conducive to survival than this? As it turns out, pretty much any place on earth.

As the author says:

With wide, open spaces like the mesa, dense hills and the desert, we’ll see those undead bastards coming miles away.

That is true, but with no natural obstacles it also means that zeds can see you from a mile away.  This is a problem since you have a finite pool of energy for doing things like running while zombies do not.  Good luck finding a safe place to sleep in the desert.

Also, how long are you going to be out in these wide-open, arid spaces?  While food may not be an issue for zombies, it sure is for humans, and there ain’t a whole lot of it in that picture.

More important than food is water, but the author talks a bit about that.

Water would be scarce, but New Mexicans are used to that.  Have we ever not been in a drought?

That’s an easy problem to deal with when you have running water.  When you don’t though, you’re more fucked than a porn star.  Look there’s a reason New Mexico and Utah are not very populous states and more lush states are: these conditions suck for human beings.  This is why settlers didn’t stop in New Mexico on their way to California.  If you’re going to be trying to make it in the wilderness with little experience doing so, you should try to play it as much on easy mode as you can.

The author does have one solution to the problem of sustenance: the earthships in Taos:

Taos’ energy-efficient earthships are more than ideal.

Underground. Off-the-grid. Reliant on the sun.

On the outside they look like a spaceship. And the interior? Gorgeous. None of that “roughing it” bullshit, if that’s what you were thinking. We’re riding out the zombie apocalypse in style.

Ok, these are pretty badass.  I looked them up and they are quite a feat of modern science.  Sadly, being a feat of modern science means they’re reliant upon people well-versed in the relevant science and engineering to operate them.  What’s more, even if that weren’t the case, they have another glaring flaw for surviving a zombie incident.  Look closely at this picture and see if you can identify it:

Hint: it rhymes with “ass”, as in “your ass will be dead if you try to hole up in one of these.”

You don’t want to seek refuge in here for the same reason you don’t want to make your last stand in a supermarket: look at all that glass.  That’s not going to keep anything out, nor will it hide you, especially if you have the lights on.

The author later went on to talk more about how the terrain of New Mexico would be perfect for surviving:

Unlike those idiots on The Walking Dead — hanging out in Georgia for no good reason — our state has significantly fewer trees and forests for zombies to pop out of.

Between the humans and zombies, only one of them is interested in hiding (and it’s not the zombies).  Zombies are noisy, they moan.  There are ways to detect their presence without seeing them, removing the need for wide open spaces that play to the strengths of zombies.  However, a forest not only provides countless outlets for sustaining yourself over long periods, it also contains numerous ways to hide.  After all, trees are easier to climb than mesas.

What about the plant life in New Mexico?

Our cacti are about as weaponized as vegetation can get.

Considering what most people consider zombies to look like, with broken teeth, broken limbs, and all manner of injuries that don’t seem to deter the walking dead in the slightest, who could think that the prick of a cactus will be the salvation of humankind?

I can appreciate entertaining different terrains as a survival haven as a thought experiment, but that’s where thoughts of making your post apocalyptic home in New Mexico need to stop.

Don’t Poke Me Like That: Crowbars and Zombie Self-Defense


So far, I’ve covered baseball bats and ax attacks for self-defense. But there are many other melee weapons that Preppers could use to attack you, and which are everyday (mostly) items.

One of the potential scariest is the crowbar. In a post-apocalyptic world, survivors will desperately need to find supplies, and harvest season will be a long way off. They will need to spend, most likely, the first year breaking into homes, grocery stores, and cars to raid the canned goods.

They will look for crowbars to help with this. Which means someone, in any given group of surviving humans, will most likely have a crowbar.

It’s not an obvious weapon, but it blunt, and made to be durable, and it has some pointy bits on the end that could do damage to the softening flesh that’s beginning to slowly slough from your bones. According to Zombiepedia: “Not only can you bash zombies with it, but you can drive either end through a zombie’s head to kill it instantly (although you have to be very careful not to get it stuck, especially when using the claw end).” Like baseball bats and axes, these are readily available after global currency is destroyed – just head to the remains of your local hardware store and grab one. More from Zombiepedia: “Titanium crowbars recently have become available in North America and are lighter than their steel counterparts, yet more than twice as strong.”

Fortunately, defense against a crowbar is very similar to defense against other blunt(-ish) melee weapons. Check it out.

And remember, future zombies of the apocalypse: study these techniques now, before your brain literally falls out of your head, so that you can run on instinct when it comes time to take down the Preppers.

Reasons We’re All Screwed: Nodding Disease

Screen grab from "I Am Legend" the movie.
Screen grab from “I Am Legend” the movie.

In most zombie entertainment, the zombie apocalypse happens suddenly. In the first episode of The Walking Dead, our intrepid hero Rick Grimes awakens from a coma to find that the dead have risen and most people have been eaten. In Dawn of the Dead, as well as Shawn of the Dead, our heroes discover that the apocalypse has happened overnight. In I Am Legend, as well as the new video game The Last Of Us, the disease spreads slowly enough that the military swoops in to evacuate those who have not caught the disease – and yet, it is too late for many with such a communicable plague.

In reality, few diseases that cause zombie-like symptoms are highly contagious. While rabies is caused by a virus and can be transmitted across species, it transmits through a bite, not through the air. And as discussed last week, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis transmits via spores in the air, but is contagious only to insects.

In the 1960’s, researchers discovered a disturbing new disease spreading across Southern Sudan. By the 1990’s, it had claimed around 3,000 victims, and more than 1,000 new cases are reported in Sudan and Uganda each year. The disease currently resides only in a small pocket of countries in East Africa, but it is spreading. It is the nodding disease, also called nodding syndrome, named after its primary symptom – an epileptic seizure in which the victim’s head nods up and down.

A child with nodding disease. Image from
A child with nodding disease. Image from

At the moment, the disease only affects children between the ages of 5 and 15. However, it has some horrifying characteristics: the victim’s growth is completely stunted, their brains stop maturing so they are mentally stunted, they pathologically react to food, and they chew on nearby objects. In children with nodding syndrome, epilepsy is often triggered by food – sometimes even just the sight of it. In groups of children with nodding disease, sometimes one child will go into a tonic-clonic seizure (the stereotypical seizure in mass media), and the other children will become completely still. Occasionally, victims are slowly paralyzed over years, so they lose control of their feet, legs, then torso and arms.

Victims of nodding disease first become distracted and cannot concentrate. Their thoughts are scattered and cloudy. When victims retain mobility, they shuffle aimlessly and must be restrained, because they are a danger to themselves. Governments in Sudan and Uganda cannot cure the disease, so “nodding disease” wards of hospitals have become drop-off points for desperate caretakers to leave what remains of their children.

The most frightening part of this disease is that no one knows what causes it. Most theories center around a parasitic worm, and while the vast majority of children with nodding disease haveOnchocerca volvulusand the worm is prevalent in areas where nodding disease is also prevalent, there are no recorded instances yet of the worm infiltrating the brain. Other theories suggest it could be caused by wartime chemical exposure, toxic chemicals on seeds from relief agencies, or B6 deficiency. Symptoms are difficult to diagnose as well, until the first nodding seizure hits – and by then, it is too late.

There seems to be a potential treatment – though not a cure – in generic anti-seizure medication.

With chewing, shuffling, and inability to speak, nodding disease victims share several similarities to zombies. Worst of all, the disease currently only affects children, but it could mutate and spread to the adult population.

We are totally screwed.

Zombie Games: Pandemic

pandemic-2013-board-gameIt’s not often that you find a board game that will help you prepare for the coming zombie apocalypse, but when you do, you have to round up a group of fellow survivors and see if you can make it to the end of the game.

Pandemic is a board game simulating the spread of several “diseases” across the planet. The goal of the game is to find and administer a cure before outbreaks make a critical mass of people ill.  On the easy level, the game is beatable, but it becomes exponentially more difficult as you progress.

The best part of the game is that it is cooperative — everyone is fighting together to try to stop the disease apocalypse, and the game is doing everything it can to stop you.  Each player has a unique role in trying to stop the disease — much like a real zombie fighting unit should have.

The diseases grow and spread from city to city, along commonly traveled routes.  If they’re sick in LA, they’re probably going to get sick in Mexico City.


While not openly a “zombie” game, if you understand the ways disease commonly spreads, you’ll be much better prepared when the zombie outbreak occurs.  Presuming it is a diseased outbreak and not simply all of the dead rising.  Learning how to work cooperatively using your own skill set and the skills of others is also a huge help.  So try to play with people who are going to make it past the first infection period.

The game is also very replayable, because there are multiple difficulty levels and multiple roles for each individual to play.  There’s also an expansion pack that adds some new roles and an extra disease, just in case the game wasn’t difficult enough already.  It’s a lot like playing chess as a group against an invisible opponent and every turn means that more people die.  Good luck saving the world.

What to eat after the zombies come?

Saw this video today.  It’s a guy teaching people how to make a rudimentary snare in the wilderness:

So you escaped civilization which is now full of the undead.  You’ve made it to the wilderness because there are way less flesh-eating monsters, but you have a problem: having lived a life of luxury thanks to human innovation, you don’t know how to find food that’s not in your grocer’s freezer.  Don’t worry you poor victim of an urban culture, JT has the medicine.

Now, you could use a device like the one in the video to catch some kind of little animal to kill, cook, and consume.  This is assuming you know how to make a fire or to construct an apparatus that will let you cook it.  But do you know what’s better for securing meat while you’re trying to keep your position hidden?  Not trapping some animal alive so it can squawk and yell and announce your location to everything living or undead in the echoing forest.

A better option exists.  Try setting your predatory sights on these:

If you can’t hunt these, then natural selection will get you before the zombies.

There are more plants in the forest than animals, they make less noise when killed, and they’re stationary.  You could be like stranded marines in the movies and walk past a patch of strawberries while taking the time to carve out all the pieces, find some rope, and construct an elaborate snare; or you could know ahead of time how to tell which plants are edible.

Seriously, it’s not Hollywood’s job to train you to survive.  Good thing too, because it would suck at it.

First thing’s first though: how to tell what greenery you can eat.  After all, it’s better to be hungry than poisoned.  Even if you’ve studied which plants are edible in your region ahead of time, there are still imposters (poison hemlock, which is deadly, looks very much like wild carrots and wild parsnips, which are both safe).

Step #1:  Figure out which plants are in abundance and go from there.  What’s the point of testing out a plant for edibility if there are only a few of them?  We’re looking to sustain ourselves, so find a plant that is abundant to examine first.

Step #2:  Look for red flags.  There are certain qualities in plants frequently associated with poison of some sort:

  • Milky or discolored sap.
  • Beans, bulbs, or seeds inside pods.
  • Bitter or soapy taste.
  • Spines, fine hairs, or thorns.
  • Dill, carrot, parsnip, or parsley-like foliage.
  • “Almond” scent in woody parts and leaves.
  • Grain heads with pink, purplish, or black spurs.
  • Three-leaved growth pattern.

Yeah, this will cause you to miss out on some edible plants.  But time is important in a survival situation and you can’t test every shoot, sprout, and shrub you come across.  The general red flags will help you avoid far more plants that would land you in a hospital, if only it wasn’t overrun with zeds.

Step #3:  Prepare to test.  This means drinking nothing but purified water for eight hours.  Purified water can be tough to come up with in the sticks, but it can be done.  If you can’t purify water, it’s time to go thirsty for eight hours.

Step #4:  Test in spurts.  First, separate the plant into parts.  Separate stems from leave, etc.  Some plants are only poisonous in parts, so you’ll need to test each one individually.  After you’ve done this, take the part you’re testing and hold it against your lip for 15 minutes.  If it starts to burn or tingle, then ditch it and move on to another.  If the plant part passes that test, next hold it against your tongue for 15 minutes.  After that, chew for 15 minutes but don’t swallow.  Assuming you still have no red flags, swallow a tiny portion of the plant and wait 8 hours for signs of sickness.

Step #5:  Hopefully you won’t have to do this, but if you do get sick after swallowing, it’s now time to induce vomiting.  This is one place where Hollywood is actually a pretty good guide: stick two fingers down your throat until it all comes up.

If you plan to make a home in the wild for an extended period, you’ll want to add actual meat to your diet.  Next time I’ll go into details on how you can actually acquire meat without a weapon.  Stay tuned to stay alive.

Zombies and Love: Zom-Rom-Com vs. Rom-Zom-Com

To be honest, I often wonder whether the existence of zombie comedy and zombie romantic comedy exists solely because it is fun to say.  The zombie comedy dates back to the splatstick comedies of the 1980s with movies like Return of the Living Dead and the Evil Dead series and it wasn’t until the last 10 years that people realized it was fun to mashup the romcom/zomcom.


Shaun of the Dead started the new genre of romantic zombie comedies.  It’s important to note that Shaun of teh Dead and creators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost think of the film as a romantic zombie comedy, not a romantic comedy with zombies.  Hence its claim of being a Rom-Zom-Com, but not a Zom-Rom-Com.  The movie is written to the conventions of a zombie film, as a parody; the romantic subplot is a driving force in the movie, but the film doesn’t obey the genre conventions of romantic comedy.  There is no meet-cute, in fact the couple is already together at the beginning of the film and Shaun is trying to win her back, rather than win her over in the first place.  The theme of the movie is really about complacency and arrested development.  And the true romance of the film is between Shaun and Ed — their friendship is so strong and powerful that it overcomes even the transition of Ed into a zombie at the end of the film.


The other big romance with zombies film is from the last year, Warm Bodies.  Unlike Shaun of the DeadWarm Bodies started out as a romance — it’s based on Romeo and Juliet — and became a comedy by turning Romeo into a zombie.  So it’s a romantic comedy that follows the conventions of that genre, but just adds zombies.  ZomRomCom.  Hardcore zombie fans, of course, found it easier to swallow the Shaun of the Dead version, because the zombies were gross, shambling monsters and the story was a send-up of zombie conventions.  Warm Bodies, on the other hand, rewrites zombies to be something curable by the power of love.  I actually quite liked Warm Bodies, it was sweet and much better than Romeo and Juliet, which I hate.

Two other ZomRomComs worth checking out, though they are further from the mainstream are the independent film Cost of the Living – A Zom Rom Com and Prombies! a short film about men who turn into zombies when they, ahem, become aroused.

Could the USA secure our border against zombies?

Believe it or not, the subject of securing a nation’s border against zombies has been brought up before.  Earlier this year in the Canadian Parliament, this took place:

Hardy harr. We’ll see how much they laugh when it comes time to seriously consider locking down the border.

The United States has almost 5,000 hospitals. It has 9,000 tanks.

So could a nation lock down a border in a zombie pandemic?  What if patient zero is in Mexico or Canada, could we keep the horde at bay?  If so, how?

Could we build a fence?  The short answer is no.  In 2006 Congress passed the Secure Fence Act.  It’s a nice way of saying “we’re going to build 700 miles of fence along the Mexico border because all those lazy, uneducated Mexicans are sneaking in and getting hired over brilliant, hard-working Americans (because that makes sense)”.  According to the Congressional Research Service:

As of January 15, 2013, DHS had installed 352 miles of primary pedestrian fencing, 299 miles of vehicle fencing (total of 651 miles), and 36 miles of secondary fencing (see Figure 4). The Border Patrol reportedly had identified a total of 653 miles of the border as appropriate for fencing and barriers.

So it’s taken us 7 years to build 653 miles of fence.  Considering that zombies aren’t likely to wait around twiddling their decomposing thumbs while we erect a wall, and considering that we have a total of 3,471 miles to cover between the Mexican and Canadian borders, you can kiss any thought of walling off our nation goodbye.

Could we secure our border with military force?  This question can only be asked if we assume that zombies are nowhere in our country, otherwise our military forces would likely be otherwise occupied.  But assuming the USA is clean, could we use our military to keep the zombie hordes out?  This is actually a possibility.

As of 2011, the US Army and US Marine Corps had a total of about 4500 M1A1 and M1A2 tanks in service, with approximately the same number of M1 tanks in storage.  That’s almost three tanks per mile.  Now, some of the land on our borders cannot be traversed by human or zombie.  Even better!  That’s more effective tanks per mile.  There are some places that can be traversed by foot, but which are inaccessible to tanks.  Ok, so we put soldiers there and we get even more tanks per mile on the remaining border land!

We could also set up and mark air strike areas, where if large mobs are seen they will be bombed (zombie movies always seem to forget that we have an air force).

Of course, all of this assumes a fast reaction time and an ability for our armed forces to competently organize at a moment’s notice.  This has not always been their strong suit.   Organizing a detailed border lock down at the drop of a hat would be a nightmare to orchestrate, but at least we know that it could theoretically be done.

However, just because it could theoretically be done doesn’t mean it will.  Don’t count on anybody saving your life but you.  If the armed forces succeed, then lucky you.  But if they don’t, then you’ll at least be ready.

Reasons We’re All Screwed: Zombie Fungus

Zombie Ants. Zomb-ants?


By now, zombie aficionados have heard about zombie ants – a disease spread through ant colonies by a terrifying fungus called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. If an ant passes through a cloud of O. unilateralis spores, it will almost always catch the parasitic fungus. The fungus infects the ant’s brain, then alters the ant’s behavior in order for the fungus to continue its vicious lifecycle. The fungus goes through a yeast-like stage in which it devours non-vital soft tissues inside its host, and then, when it reaches the host’s nervous system, the ant climbs up the stalk of the nearest leaf or branch with unnatural force, where the fungus erupts from the ant’s head and sends its spores into the wind.


The fungus occurs in tropical regions around the world, and has been with our poor insect population for 48 million years. But after that many millions of years of evolution, it has not spread to mammals. So we’re safe, right?

The new Playstation 3 video game, The Last of Usconcerns exactly this scenario. Humans walk through clouds of spores and catch a zombie-creating fungus that leads them to eat people to survive.

While it is unlikely that ants could directly transmit the fungus to humans, insects often spread disease to people through food. So, for example, these ants could climb up lettuce or tomato leaves or fruit trees, release spores – and the cloud hovers around the farm, desperate for a host, attaching itself to leaves or just hovering in the air. Eventually, the fungus might be able evolve to take over human farmers, who surround themselves with plant life very much on purpose.

That might explain mind control, but it doesn’t cover all the characteristics of zombies. It could, however, live in its host’s mouth and spread infection through the host’s uncontrollable urge to bite.

According to the blog I Eat Gravity, here’s how the fungus could spread:

“And instead of growing out of the host body, it forms spore sacs in the mouth of it’s host. This fungus, much like cordyceps, would control the host. During the period of control, the fungus would direct the host to attack and “bite” another organism to spread spores. Biting would be an extremely effective method of spore transmission, as any direct route into the human system, such as cuts, scrapes, gashes, bites, etc – is necessary to fungal infection. The most dangerous form of fungal infections occur when humans inhale spores, currently – as it deposits them in the lungs, where they can be easily transferred to the blood stream and circulated.”

Humans are already susceptible to fungus – jock itch, ringworm, athlete’s foot, yeast infections. Fungi can infect your lungs and spread to the blood stream. Additionally, if your immune system is suppressed, for example because of chronic illness like cancer, then you are more likely to develop fungal infections – so a prime breeding ground for a human zombie fungus would be hospitals (as presented in the opening scene in The Last of Us).

If humans, perhaps in remote areas, become infected with a zombie fungus, the fungus could transmit via spores through the wind to more populated areas, infect a first wave of hosts with suppressed immune systems, and spread through biting.

We’re screwed.

Watch Out for Sharp Things: Axes and Zombie Defense

Prepper with Ax (scary)

Last week, I discussed how, as a zombie, you can defend yourself against a baseball bat – the cheap, readily-available melee weapon of choice for many preppers.

However, there’s many other melee weapons that live large in preppers’ imaginations – chainsaws, katanas, and axes.

Axes are much tougher than baseball bats because they’re sharp. Even rusty axes have a cutting edge and can slice through rotting flesh. Smaller axes, along with tomahawks, can be thrown. Axes have uses aside from killing the undead, like chopping wood for fires or underbrush to make woodland crossings easier.

And, in a post-apocalyptic world, hardware stores and knife shops can be easily raided for weapons, so axes might become just as easy to find as baseball bats. Axes will be in high demand.

Fortunately, self-defense training for baseball bats can work in your favor, as defense against ax attacks is very similar:

According to Judo For Self-Defense:

“It’s important to understand well that ax is not a knife or a stick or a baton. Therefore, blocking techniques developed for defense from those types of weapon aren’t directly applicable for the defense against ax attack. Using Krav Maga intuitive blocking (otherwise effective against knife or stick attack) may result in ax failing out of assailant’s hand and stacking directly into you back. When training ax defense blocks you must to take yourself out of the ax trajectory ether when controlled by assailant or when in a freefall.”

Axes are not very concealable weapons, so as a zombie, you will be able to spot a prepper wielding one. You can easily move to the back of the horde and allow the first wave or two to suffer blows for you. If you’re lucky, one of the first zombies will be struck with the ax and the weapon will become stuck in his/her head – then the prepper will have to resort to other means of self-defense, if it has any.

Remember, to keep self-defense techniques readily available to you when you become a zombie, it is important to take the classes now, before you transition – that way, when you become a zombie, the moves will have become instinct.