Gene Penaflor, 72-Year-Old Hunter, Found Alive After 3 Weeks Lost in CA Forest

Gene Penaflor, a 75-year-old hunter from San Francisco was found alive Saturday after being lost in the California woods for over two weeks. The elderly man told his family that part of the reason he was able to survive was by eating lizards and squirrels during his ordeal.

Gene Penaflor went on his traditional hunt in Mendocino National Forest in northern California several weeks ago with a buddy and while separated, he fell down, hitting his head. Penaflor woke up hours later with a busted lip and a cut on his face, realizing that he had been unconscious for some time.

Worse, his family believed he was fine at first.

"He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year," Deborah Penaflor, his daughter-in-law, told the Associated Press. "We'd gotten a little complacent that he would always come back."

The next day, Penaflor's family and authorities began searching for him, but called the search off after a day. The hunter was lost in 160 square miles of forest and had fired off warning shots, but his friend never heard them.

Penaflor had several items on him that helped him survive, however: a lighter and a rifle. With those, he killed squirrels and lizards for sustenance, found and ate berries, and found water to drink. Penaflor also made a shelter under a log and surrounded himself with leaves to stay dry.

Penaflor's son, Jeremy, never gave up hope.

"He's been hunting for 25-30 years. He reads survival magazines. There was times as the weeks went on where it was difficult, but I wouldn't say I lost hope," the 31-year-old said. Deborah admitted that the family was "depressed," but still walked Penaflor's dog and hoped for his survival.

Eventually, hunters found the man in the forest Saturday.

"There were tears of joy on the top of that mountain," Deborah told AP.