We’re so glad this story has a happy ending.
Via NYDaily News reports:
A 72-year-old hunter missing in a northern California forest for 18 days has been found alive after surviving off lizards, squirrels and berries.
Avid hunter Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was emotionally reunited with family Saturday after his annual hunting trip with a friend turned into a grueling flight between life and death.
After splitting up to hunt deer in the Mendocino National Forest on Sept. 24, Penaflor tells police he fell and hit his head in a canyon and didn’t come to until hours later.
When he did, thick fog had set in around him and he immediately became lost and disoriented.
As search crews spread out across the region for him, though taking a break when rough weather blew in, Penaflor mobilized himself near a spring and did whatever he could to survive.
In addition to eating lizards, squirrels and berries, he says he ate at least one snake and algae he knew to be safe.
He did see plenty of deer, he told police, but he felt too weak to hunt them.
To combat the cold nights, some which dipped into the low 20s, the 72-year-old built a fire and burrowed into a log for shelter while additionally coating himself with leaves.
“He said he never lost hope and never panicked because he said the moment that you panic is the moment that it’s over,” his son, Jeremy Penaflor, told NBC Bay Area.
Relief finally came Saturday when a group of hunters heard his cries for help at the bottom of the canyon, some three miles from where he was last seen.
It took rescue units several hours to reach him, NBC reports, but by then the hunters had assembled a makeshift stretcher for him using their coats and poles.
He was then carried toward the top where a helicopter was able to safely lift him to safety.
Penaflor was treated at Ukaiah Valley Medical Center before his release in good health.
He reflected to his son that throughout his near three-week endeavor — while faced with starvation and freezing temperatures — he learned a tremendous amount about himself.
He also got to test out every one of the skills picked up while watching some of his favorite survival TV shows.
Guess those TV shows are good for something!