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Hunter found in Calif. survived on squirrels

| Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
This undated photo provided by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, shows Gene Penaflor. Penaflor, a 72-year-old hunter who got hurt in a Northern California forest, was rescued Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. He was lost for 19 days and survived the ordeal by eating squirrels and lizards and covering himself with leaves to stay warm. (AP Photo/Mendocino County Sheriff's Department)
In this undated photo provided by the Mendocino County Sheriff's Department, volunteers and rescue workers gather before searching for missing hunter Gene Penaflor. Penaflor, a 72-year-old hunter who got hurt in a Northern California forest, was rescued Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013. He was lost for 19 days and survived the ordeal by eating squirrels and lizards and covering himself with leaves to stay warm. (AP Photo/Mendocino County Sheriff's Department)

SAN FRANCISCO — The 72-year-old hunter who was lost for more than two weeks in a California forest survived by eating squirrels and other animals he shot with his rifle and by making fires and packing leaves and grasses around his body to stay warm, his family said on Monday.

Gene Penaflor of San Francisco was found Saturday in Mendocino National Forest by other hunters who carried him to safety in a makeshift stretcher, the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office said in a statement.

Penaflor disappeared upon heading out with a partner during the first week of deer hunting season in the rugged mountains of Northern California, a trip he takes annually. The forest is about 160 miles north of San Francisco.

“He goes hunting every year, and he comes home every year,” his daughter-in-law Deborah Penaflor said on Monday outside Gene Penaflor's small home in the Bernal Heights neighborhood. “We'd gotten a little complacent that he would always come back.”

Gene Penaflor separated from his hunting partner for a couple of hours as usual to stalk deer. While they were apart, Penaflor fell, hit his head and passed out, Deborah Penaflor said.

He woke up after spending what appeared to be a full day unconscious, with his chin and lip badly gashed. He noticed fog and morning dew and realized he'd been out for a while, Deborah Penaflor said.

The sheriff's office said an initial search involving several agencies was called off when a storm was on its way and there was no sign of the missing hunter.

The search was reactivated Saturday, and a group of hunters found Gene Penaflor when one of them heard a voice calling for help from the bottom of a canyon.

Gene Penaflor arrived home on Sunday looking weak and wearing a hospital bracelet.

“I didn't panic because panic will kill me right away. I knew that,” he said.

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