An elderly hunter, age 72, is now in recovery after being lost in the snowy wilderness for almost three weeks. He says he was able to stay alive by living on squirrels and lizards and by putting leaves all around his body to help keep him warm for the time he was alone out there in the woods, police say.
Hunters found Gene Penaflor on Saturday after exactly 19 days of him wandering in the Mendocino National Forest. That is in the Mountain Range of northwestern California near the coast, which is what is reported by the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
A message on a website that was set up and devoted to Penaflor’s search, www.genepenaflor.com, states that him being found is nothing short of a miracle. The site has now been updated with a photograph of the family which was taken at a local hospital over the weekend.
The Mendocino National Forest has been closed because of the government shutdown and is taken care of by the U.S. Forest Service, according to their own website. A voicemail they have recorded from the National Forest office explains that the workers there have been furloughed.
Penaflor is an enthusiastic hunter with over 30 years of rough country experience. He had been out hunting with a friend of his when they accidentally got separated on Sept. 24, the police report reads.
Over 18 agencies from 12 counties searched for Penaflor for four days but then had to give up the search when they were unable to find any clues and snow storms were heading into the region.
This past Saturday, 19 days after the elderly hunter had disappeared, the search began again, however it was a group of hunters who heard Penaflor’s yells for help and they were ultimately able to find him in a canyon deep in the forest.
He was able to tell authorities that he had hiked too far away from the road, and then he fell and hit his head. He says he was then knocked unconscious. When he came to, he was confused, and found himself enclosed by dense fog in woods where the temperature drops down to 25 degrees or lower.
Penaflor was able to build a fire to keep himself warm. He also gathered grass and leaves which he put all around his body and packed against himself tightly, the report also reported. During rainy or snowy days he crawled beneath a large log to keep dry. He was able to kill and eat squirrels in the area. He also ate lizards he said, and he was able to find plenty of water to drink to keep himself hydrated.
By doing all this, and having the experience of so many years of being an avid outdoorsman, is how the man was able to keep himself alive for almost a month in such rough, cold conditions. He is convalescing very well, according to social media postings that his son, Jeremy Penaflor have posted.
The younger Penaflor put on Twitter that his father being found alive and well was a complete miracle, and he exclaimed how happy he is about this news, that his dad had been found after being lost for 19 days.
Written by: Kimberly Ruble