72-year-old Gene Penaflor recovering in the hospital after spending 18 days lost in the California wilderness. (courtesy ABC News)
Monday, October 14, 2013
A 72-year-old hunter lost in the woods for 18 days used a garbage bag and leaves to stay warm and ate lizards, squirrels and frogs to stay alive, officials said.
Gene Penaflor, of San Francisco, was rescued Saturday in the Mendocino National Forest in northwest California by hunters who heard him calling for help from the bottom of a canyon, according to authorities.
The hunters, who were not identified by police, used their coats and poles they had cut down to rig a makeshift stretcher and carry Penaflor to rescue teams, who had been slowed down for hours due to the forest's treacherous terrain.
Penaflor was reported missing Sept. 25 after he failed to reunite with his hunting partner at a camp within the forest. The Mendocino County Sheriff's Office activated more than 10 search teams to look for Penaflor, but called off the search after four days due to the lack of clues and severe weather.
On Saturday, the 911 call came in from Penaflor's fellow hunters and, using GPS coordinates from the caller's cell phone, authorities tracked down the location.
Penaflor was airlifted to Ukiah Valley Medical Center for medical treatment and a reunion with his family, who had also assisted in the search.
"He ate squirrels, whatever he could catch," Penaflor's son, Jeremy Penaflor, told local ABC affiliate KGO. "He ate lizards, he ate a couple of frogs, he ate snakes, and survival mode kicked in. When you have no food for 18 days, whatever protein you can get, he did."
Penaflor, who was found less than four miles from his original location, told authorities he travelled further away from the road than planned on his hunting excursion and then fell and hit his head, leaving him temporarily unconscious and disoriented when he awoke.
Penaflor also told authorities he started a fire and used dry leaves and a heavy-duty garbage bag to stay warm in the snow and fluctuating temperatures, which ranged from 25 to 70 degrees, according to the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
Penaflor has been discharged from the Ukiah Valley Medical Center, hospital officials confirmed today to ABCNews.com. Attempts to reach Penaflor and his son, Jeremy, for comment were not successful.