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Survivalist: I Rejected Doomsday Preppers Because They Wanted Me to Eat an Iguana

See our cover story on South Florida preppers.

Chris Petrovich has been prepping for more than a quarter-century. He has plenty of guns, plenty of single-malt scotch, and enough supplies hidden in an undisclosed storage locker somewhere, plus caches on roadways leading out of the state, to let him ride out virtually any emergency. He is trained in combat methods and is an expert in armor and ballistics, and he possesses a wry sense of humor about just how unprepared the rest of the world is.

And like most real survivalists, he's not happy with the National Geographic Channel show Doomsday Preppers. After we published our story on Petrovich and his fellow preppers, the TV producers came knocking. 

The show follows survivalists as they prepare for the apocalypse, packaging preparedness into an audience-friendly mashup of guns, crazy people, and doomsday scenarios. It's pretty much hijacked the "prepper" identity over the past year. The next episode, "I Hope I Am Crazy," is on Sunday at 8.

Most of the Doomsday Preppers folks are living off in rural areas somewhere, with plenty of land and plenty of guns. The show caters somewhat to the perception of survivalists as wacky gun nuts, which many of the quieter preppers in urban areas think gives the movement a bad name. And the rest of the preppers they find have a certain, let's say, fondness for the camera. Check out this mess:

The South Florida preppers, on the other hand, are a low-key group that meets for coffee and doughnuts occasionally; shares tips on survival medicine, body armor, and bug-out bags; and generally keeps to itself. 

But National Geographic producer Chris Stone reached out to Petrovich to film a segment based on his urban-prepper lifestyle in Hollywood. During the negotiations, the producers asked Petrovich for access to his secret storage location -- which would be not very secret anymore -- as well as permission to talk with his family and girlfriend. 

Then Petrovich mentioned offhand that a rebounding local population of iguanas could provide food in a collapse. "They're tastiest between two and three feet. Really three feet is the best," he explains. Soon the producers were asking if he could stalk and catch an iguana on camera. "I know a couple of the canals where they hang out and sun themselves," says Petrovich. But he wasn't sure he'd be able to catch one.

No problem, the producers said. They'd bring one along and stage the hunt. Would he be willing to grill and eat it?

Here's the response Petrovich sent to Stone:

I will not kill an animal if I don't need to kill it..........certainly not for a conservation minded network like National Geographic (that would be bad press), and certainly not for food when I don't need to. That is probably why your show doesn't play well with most preppers I have met (in the hundreds)....(I have a degree in Psychology and Marketing, so I know a little about these things)..Preppers are seriously conservation minded, and it won't fly. It is like me chopping down a good fruit tree for fire stupid is that.... I can catch a couple of the little guys and say "If I let these little guys go now, then each one will have 5 offspring, and each of their 5 offspring, and so if in the future I should even need the food, I will have 100 iguanas, instead of NONE because I needlessly killed one now.....(me looking at the little lizard), go on little guy, and I hope we never have the need to put you in a pot, ohhh, the neighbor 3 doors down has a lot of nice flowering plants....bye little fella"...................

That was the beginning of the end. They also wanted him to take a machine gun out to the firing range and blast away at nothing. When the producers kept asking for access to Petrovich's camera-shy family, he backed out of the show. Plus, he says, the National Geographic Channel is a little bit left-wing for his tastes -- and by appearing on the show, he'd lose credibility as a leader in the prepper community.

"Any prepper who's going to look at this is going to look at me as an asshole," he says. When he sent out an email to the local Meetup group asking if anyone else wanted to appear, he says, he got zero "yes" and about 20 "hell no" replies.

The media attention from the TV show was the first thing people mentioned when they were hesitant about our story earlier this year. Nat Geo may work for some camera-friendly preppers, but Florida's local folks want to keep their prepping under wraps. After all, when the collapse happens, they don't want you to know where to find their supplies.

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Stefan Kamph
Contact: Stefan Kamph

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