In The Walking Dead, I've noticed that often when a person is attacked by the walking dead, the victim is totally consumed. For example,

Rick's wife was eaten whole by one zombie.

So if they usually consume an entire person (or leave not much left of the original person) how can there be so many walkers? Shouldn't their numbers be smaller because they eat people whole?

  • 5
    A comment was made in early season 3 (IIRC), that "maybe half" of the population was now zombies. The way they portray things, you'd think closer to 80-90% of the population was zombies. Also: Who's been cutting the lawn at the prison? My only point: The series producers don't care about consistency, for one reason or another.
    – Flimzy
    Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 1:54
  • 2
    Flimzy, its harsh to say that they don't care about consistency. They have to battle both our expectations and reality. The prison has plenty of "un-mowed" area. Also not all grass grows tall if left to its own. ALSO the walking dead would trample the grass while still alive. I would expect grass to be fairly short in the prison yard when they came upon it for the first time due to this.
    – ktamlyn
    Commented Aug 27, 2013 at 2:17

6 Answers 6


The number of zombies currently has little to do with the fact the zombies consume the living whenever they get the chance.

  • Not knowing the source of the original event, we are never privy to how many zombies there were initially or how the infection was spread. Since everyone is infected, unless their brains are destroyed, everyone who dies will eventually become a zombie.

  • Since people don't have to be bitten for them to become zombies, nor do we know for certain how long a zombie lasts, we could be seeing zombies from the absolute beginning of the event. If they are decaying, it is at a rate far slower than the normal degradation of bodies that are "dead" so we can't estimate how many should be left after a given amount of time.

  • Accidental deaths, suicides, from the horror of it all, starvation (likely to be one of the most likely cause of new zombie creation) are all likely sources of new zombie creation. People who may be bitten but not killed (but die later, anyway) are also good candidates to end up zombies without being eaten.

  • I suspect eventually, the roaming herds of zombies will diminish as free-range humans get harder to find (either through the experience of fighting the walkers, or being exterminated by them) and their populations will slowly diminish. This means humanity will likely never truly be zombie free and will develop new ways of dealing with the dead should free-range humans get their act together against the zombie threat.

  • 2
    Keep in mind that there are over 7 billion people world-wide, and about 309 million people in the US (according to the 2010 census). That's potentially a lot of zombies. Having one or two living people completely shredded by a crowd of zombies never to rise again won't make much of a dent in the zombie population. On the other hand, if a small group of living people take out a dozen zombies every week, that won't make much of a dent either if there are millions of them.
    – Force Flow
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 22:56
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    Good point, but I'm still unconvinced that the number of people turned after death into zombies would out weigh the number of people actually bitten into zombies (if they survived actually being bitten/eaten).
    – Jared
    Commented Dec 2, 2012 at 23:33
  • 1
    +1 great answer. I assume new zombies are never created by non-interrupted zombie attacks (i.e. where the victim doesn't escape), because zombies are shown to dismember and completely destroy their victims.
    – Andres F.
    Commented Jan 25, 2013 at 21:20

Why aren't more people totally devoured?

It isn't explicitly stated on the show or in the comics, but the Max Brooks books World War Z and The Zombie Survival Guide suggest that zombies are very picky, and only eat fresh meat - either still-living, or killed within the last few minutes. This might be true of TWD as well. Furthermore, one zombie can't eat an entire person, even if it tried - you'd have to fit one person-sized amount of meat (minus some volume because large bones can't be eaten - they'd break the zombie's teeth) inside another person's stomach. This is impossible, because a human is much larger than the human stomach, or even the entire human abdomen.

Thus, people can't be totally devoured by one zombie, or even two or three zombies. A person can only be totally consumed by a large group of zombies, and even if there is such a group present, they usually don't finish eating the entire body.

We see this happen in Season 6, Episode 7, when a massive group of walkers attacks Nicholas, but eventually wanders off with much of his body, and his entire face, still intact. Later in the same episode, we see another Alexandrian, who had been trapped by hundreds of zombies, reanimated and mostly intact. This suggests that, as in Brooks' books, TWD zombies will stop eating when the body has been dead for long enough to be no longer "fresh", according to their standards.


We saw one bloated zombie in the room where Lori's corpse had been, but that doesn't mean he ate her entire body. Aside from the aforementioned problem of fitting an entire human being's muscle and organ tissue into another person's abdomen, no zombie, or herd of zombies, could eat a pelvis, skull, or femur. Even the smaller bones and shoulder blades would be very difficult to consume. As such, at least some of Lori's skeleton must have been left behind, and I refuse to believe that a single zombie ate the rest of her.

Natural Causes:

As we saw in Season 4, natural causes - injury, old age, and disease - are much more deadly now than they were before the world fell apart. There are very few doctors left, access to medicine is extremely limited, there are no hospitals in operation (except rare exceptions like Grady Memorial, which is operating with drastically reduced supplies and resources, and has helped only a handful of people since the world essentially ended two years ago).

Getting sick is now a much more dangerous prospect than it had been when the miracles of modern medicine and technology were available. The survivors are only slightly better off than people were thousands of years ago, when a simple broken leg or case of the flu was a virtual death sentence. We're back to the days when 4/5 children died before their fifth birthday, and giving birth was highly likely to kill the mother, and often the baby as well.

Stress - emotional and physical - has a tremendous impact on the immune system, and the survivors are living under constant, intense stress, both emotionally and physically. The emotional stress is obvious - constantly fighting to survive, watching loved ones die left and right, and unrelenting uncertainty and fear - but the physical stress is probably more detrimental. Limited food resources, drastically reduced variety in the diet, limited access to drinking water, very little medicine - all of these things (which were slightly improved when the group reached Alexandria, but which are still a serious problem, even there) are taking their toll and making our protagonists less resistant to disease, and more susceptible to complications from injuries that we, in the pre-apocalyptic world, consider trivial.

Furthermore, the TWD Wikia points out:

The [zombie] pathogen itself does not kill its hosts, but it seems to weaken their immune systems considerably, to the point where even minor illnesses are far more fatal than normal to humans.

This is plausible, in light of what we've seen thus far on the show and in the comics, but had yet to be confirmed or explained.

In short, it is much more difficult to stay alive, even if we ignore the threat posed by zombies and hostile humans. The things that might make us, in the real world, mildly uncomfortable, are likely to become life-threatening situations for the survivors on the show.

The Kill Count Prior to Season Five:

There are statistics for onscreen zombie and human deaths on the show up to the end of season four. This site lists the kill count in seasons 1 through 4; I don't know if their numbers are exactly right, but assuming that they aren't wildly inaccurate, they are good enough for our purposes. I have taken the liberty of breaking down the data and creating a spreadsheet.

enter image description here

The members of the group who are listed by name in the chart have killed 956 zombies and 39 people. Other human characters have killed 229 zombies and 136 people. Zombies have killed 78 people.

The grand total:

1,185 zombies killed
253 people killed

In the comic books, and to a lesser extent on the show, Rick's group are depicted as being among the best fighters left in the world. They have repeatedly fought off much larger forces of zombies and bad guys alike. In comparison, people who aren't in Rick's group are usually zombie fodder.

The first four seasons of The Walking Dead represent perhaps 2 years of time. In 2 years, the best zombie killers around have only managed to kill 956 zombies onscreen. This does not bode well for humanity.

How Many People Versus How Many Zombies?

The blurb for the tenth issue of the comic book says:

After the ordeal Rick has endured last issue, he sets out to find safer shelter. More is learned about the zombies that now out-number us 5000 to 1, but when it comes to some things, it's better not to know. Rick begins to wonder if there is a light at the end of the tunnel his life has become. Even if there is, how can he ever expect to make it there?

In Issue #10, Carl is brought to Herschel's farm for the first time, having just been shot by Otis. This corresponds to the second episode of Season Two of the show. The second episode of Season Two takes place about a week after Rick wakes up in the hospital, and a few weeks since the outbreak began.

This means that within weeks of the beginning of the outbreak, only 0.02% of the population was still alive. What does this mean?

0.02% Humans, 99.98% Zombies:

  • Worldwide: 1,400,000 people against 6,998,600,000 zombies.

  • United States: 60,000 people against 299,940,000 zombies.


We're doomed, and trying to survive is just playing for time.

  • 299,940,000 / 60,000 = 4999 zombies per person. If each person killed 14 zombies per day for 1 year there would be no zombies left. Roughly 5 years have passed on the show. At 3 per day per human for 5 years there would be no zombies left. Since people stopped having babies, the survival rate of children is down, and people are putting down their dead the zombie population should be dropping fast. In the beginning the army was laying waste to entire cities. In some stories Rick and the gang mow down entire herds. We would not be doomed. In short time the numbers would reach equilibrium.
    – J.Money
    Commented Jun 5, 2018 at 12:25

Well, if the whole body is already consumed the dead body can still become a walker because remember when Michonne saw a head but it was still alive and it was trying to consume her. The infection won't stop just because it lost a body part, and it will never stop unless the walker's brain is destroyed.

  • That's right, but how can there be so many walkers, i.e. reanimated corpses with most of their limbs and still capable of walking?
    – Andres F.
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 23:13

If you noticed in the show no matter how much a person got eaten he/she will turn, I saw a lot of heads without the body, so if you have legs to walk and you turn you will contribute :P.

At some places like in the hospital where rick was admitted soldiers shot people without knowing they will turn, and as the event progresses people start killing each other due to lack of food.

Not to mention off-course many people committed suicides too.

Source is {I watched the show with open eyes :P }


in the walking dead game they said whatevers left after they eat you comes back anyways. im not sure thats a good question


Everyon knows that people panic, so the first couple of days there will be riots and raids. And in those raids are people who die, and they become walkers and they kill more people.

It's 1 human out of every 5 walkers that die and there are at least 7.5 billion people. If every 5 walkers kills someone, that's around 1.5 billion undead in a pretty short period of time. Sooner or later they're going to get most or all of usS so pack up your shotgun good buddy and aim for da noggin'

  • 1
    Oop, throwing numbers around. Please link to sources?
    – Solemnity
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 22:53
  • Nobody's mentioned that zombies eat other liv9ing creatures besides people. So far we've seen horse, dog, and lion. Commented Jan 8, 2018 at 2:10

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