Plus, his words of encouragement for ‘everyday survivalists’ during coronavirus times.
EJ Snyder (54) has weathered some challenges. He’s an Army combat veteran who served for 25 years—including deployments during the Gulf War and in Iraq. He’s a survivalist who’s appeared on several seasons of Naked and Afraid. And he grew up in Northern New Jersey, just outside of New York City.
But how ‘bout those boars in the Balkans? EJ sat down with ASGTV’s Amber Hargrove to talk about his latest televised adventure—Naked and Afraid: Alone.
Unlike other seasons of Naked and Afraid, where survivalists tackle hostile wilderness environments in groups, ‘Alone’ features sole survivors all by their lonesome. EJ appears in S11: E6, ‘Lonely Like The Wolf.’ He did his survival stint in the Balkan Mountains in Bulgaria.
(Image: Google Maps)
The rugged area is home to lots of wild animals, including the rare Eurasian wolf—hence the episode’s title.
(Image: Wikimedia Commons)
The Balkans were his toughest Naked and Afraid challenge yet, EJ tells Amber. Not because he was alone, but because “Bulgaria itself, I don’t think, wanted me there. It tried to spit me out every day.”
When 550 Won’t Cut It
The packs of 450-pound boars that roam the Balkan Mountains are a potential source of food, and they’re very aggressive, EJ says.
(Here’s what a Balkans boar looks like: Wikimedia Commons)
When EJ first came to Bulgaria, he was told, “Well, they only come out when it’s pitch black, so your bow isn’t going to work.” No problem, he thought. He would fashion a weighted spike trap from logs and snare wire.
Snare wire is illegal, EJ was told. So he was going to have use 550 paracord instead. But of course “a hog can chew through paracord,” EJ tells Amber.
The area’s smaller mammals are also protected by hunting restrictions, which limited EJ’s animal protein resources. “So I was left to be a vegetarian, which I’m not a big fan of because I am a large guy,” he says. EJ lost 52 pounds.
Step Aside, Gwyneth Paltrow: EJ’s Bulgarian Cleanse
EJ found things to eat that they didn’t show in the episode— walnuts were a big protein source for him, he says. Also on the menu: large carpenter ants, stinging nettles, wild plums, wild apples, a few minnows and crawfish, and one trout. “I felt pretty good when I came out,” EJ observes. “Eating that way cleanses you.”
The Balkan terrain was so moist, “I had to do primitive fire,” he recalls. Because of the moist climate, he had only a two-hour window every day to make coals. “So it was quite a battle. A very desolate place.”
What’s Next for EJ?
The affable survivalist has a few more television projects in the works, but “thanks, corona!—those will be on hold for a little while,” he tells Amber. He does a few product endorsements, including the Skullcrusher and Sidekick knives from TOPS Knives, as well as a dehydrated food and water-bottle filter available on his web site. He’s a regular videographer and ‘Edge of Survival’ columnist on our sister site, Knives Illustrated. He also does survival training, treks, and motivational speaking.
EJ’s military training shines through when he talks about what we need to do right now to beat coronavirus. (He retired from the Army as a Sergeant Major.) We’re “dealing with the immediate hit” right now, EJ says. “It took us by surprise.”
How We’ll Survive COVID-19
There were some early warning signs we missed, he acknowledges. It’s a “world event … but a lot of nations can’t get along and talk about shipping prices, let alone ‘Let’s fight this disease together,’” he adds.
“A new virus like this that is highly contagious—we need some time to get ahead of it,” EJ explains. How every one of us can be proactive: social distancing and staying at home unless we are essential workers who must be out. “The government is just trying to slow this thing down until we get a handle on this.” (This interview was filmed in mid-March, but as we post this, we’re seeing early signs that social distancing is having its intended effect—including fever data showing that the virus may be slowing and projections showing that social distancing measures are beginning to have their intended ‘flatten the curve’ effect.) “We will see a nice, very progressive attack on this virus, so just do the things [public health experts] say,” EJ urges.
People with strong immune systems can recover from COVID-19. (Indeed, the CDC director said today that as many as one in four of Americans may be carrying the virus without having any symptoms.) “This is about protecting the vulnerable—the very old, the very young, and those with compromised immune systems,” EJ says. “This is about keeping World War II veterans—people who are in their 80s and 90s and are the reason we even have a country now—safe.”
“This is a change of life for a temporary time. Life will get back to normal. We will get through this,” EJ concludes. “Everyone stay safe out there and take care of each other.”
Back at ya, Brother.