Hunter, 72, survives 19 days in snowy California wilderness

Mon Oct 14, 2013 1:35pm EDT

1 of 3. Gene Penaflor (C) is pictured in the hospital surrounded by family members in this undated handout photo courtesy of the Penaflor family via Instagram. Penaflor, a 72-year-old California deer hunter, was recovering October 14, 2013 after surviving on squirrels and packing leaves around him for warmth for nearly three weeks while he was lost and alone in the snowy wilderness, authorities said.

Credit: Reuters/Penaflor Family/Handout via Reuters

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(Reuters) - A 72-year-old California deer hunter was recovering Monday after surviving on squirrels and packing leaves around him for warmth for nearly three weeks while he was lost and alone in the snowy wilderness, authorities said.

Gene Penaflor was discovered by hunters on Saturday after 19 days in the Mendocino National Forest in the Coastal Mountain Range of northwestern California, according to a report by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.

"This is a miracle," reads a message on a website dedicated to the search,, updated with a family photo at a local hospital over the weekend.

The Mendocino National Forest is run by the U.S. Forest Service and has been closed due to the government shutdown, according to the forest website. An outgoing voicemail message by a forest spokesperson said she had been furloughed.

Penaflor, described on the site as an avid hunter with more than 30 years of wilderness experience, had been hunting with a friend when they became separated on September 24, the report said.

After four days of searching by at least 18 agencies from more than a dozen counties, the official search was suspended because searchers could find no clues to his locations and because storms were coming.

On Saturday, 19 days after Penaflor disappeared, the search was resumed - but it was a group of hunters who heard Penaflor's cries for help and eventually found him in a canyon in the 53,887-acre Yuki Wilderness area of the national forest.

He told officials he had walked too far away from the road, fell and hit his head, and was knocked unconscious. When he regained consciousness he was disoriented, surrounded by thick fog in a forest where the temperature dipped to 25 degrees.

"He was able to make a fire and warm himself with leaves and grasses that he packed around his body," the report said. "On days when it rained or snowed he was able to crawl under a large log to stay dry. He was able to kill and eat several squirrels in the area and there was plenty of water in a nearby drainage to sustain himself."

Penaflor is recovering well, according to social media postings by his son, Jeremy Penaflor.

"My dad was found alive and well!" the younger Penaflor said on Twitter on Saturday. "God is good."

(Editing by Andrew Hay)

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Comments (3)
rtbaseman wrote:
After he recovered from his fall, why didn’t he just walk down the canyon to the flats or valley. I have been lost in the mountains and just kept walking until I got to flat land, then a road which I followed to a ranch. Plus I was dealing with a rattlesnake bite besides having been out of water or food.

Oct 14, 2013 6:43pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
C.O.Slavens wrote:
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The man survived because of his skill as an outdoorsman.

Oct 15, 2013 9:58am EDT  --  Report as abuse
I want to learn that man’s skill set.
Maybe he should carry a GPS on him next time, or was it that it’s out of range, or the battery died?
Perhaps also carry a physical map, hoping it doesn’t get damaged?
Yeah, his skill set comes in handy in the worst case scenario.

Oct 17, 2013 3:27pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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