Eighteen days after he went missing in a California forest, a 72-year-old man was discovered alive and well, having survived by eating squirrels, lizards, berries and at least one snake.

Nearly three weeks ago, Gene Penaflor slipped and knocked himself unconscious while hunting in Mendocino National Forest with a friend. He awoke several hours later, disoriented, surrounded by fog, and unable to find his hunting partner. One day later he was declared missing, and more than 20 agencies searched for him for four days, until large storm moved in and the search was called off. "When we heard the news it was devastating. It was as if somebody took our hearts and stepped on it so we felt helpless,” Penaflor's son, Jeremy, told CBS News.

On Saturday, the search resumed but it was a group of hunters that rescued Penaflor on Sunday, after hearing his cries for help. "They bumped into each other, found him, and they made a gurney from their jackets and lifted him all the way back up the road," his son said.

To combat the weather, which dropped into the 20s at night, Penaflor built a small fire and took shelter under a log when it rained or snowed. He ate lizards, squirrels, algae and at least one snake. "Basically, he ate whatever he needed to survive," his son told NBC News. "He's been hunting for 25 to 30 years. He reads survival magazines.”

Penaflor was treated briefly at a local hospital and released. "He's fine," his son said. "It's like he went on vacation and came back with a beard."