74-year-old Missing Hunter Found Safe

74-year-old Missing Hunter Found Safe

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A 74-year-old deer hunter was found safe after spending nearly four days lost in a rugged area of southwestern Utah, where he spent part of one day being stalked by a mountain lion.

Rudy Lopez Sr. was found by Forest Service workers Tuesday after the crew of a search plane spotted the orange hunting vest he had hung in a tree as a signal, the Beaver County sheriff's office said.

Lopez was taken to Beaver Valley Hospital, where he was dehydrated and disoriented but in good spirits, the sheriff's office said.

"He's a survivor," said his wife, Mona Lopez.

Lopez was part of a family hunting group from Victorville and Chino Hills, Calif., who had camped in Jimmy Reed Creek Canyon, near Beaver about 100 miles north of Zion National Park.

He became lost and disoriented Saturday morning, he said in a hospital interview with The Salt Lake Tribune.

On Sunday, while hiking down a canyon looking for water, he spotted a mountain lion, then hid in heavy timber while the big cat stalked him.

"After 10 hours I finally just had to shoot the mountain lion because it wouldn't leave me alone," Lopez said. "I emptied my gun into his chest."

A search helicopter flew directly over him that afternoon, Beaver County Sheriff's Sgt. Dave Mott said.

"It was so thick in dense cover, we just couldn't see him," he said.

His orange vest was spotted in a tree Tuesday, and a few minutes later members of a Forest Service brush clearing crew saw him waving his arms.

"He was very chipper. He was very dehydrated but very glad to be found," Mott said. "He looked a lot better than I expected him to."

Lopez had a down-filled jacket and a sweat shirt, but told rescuers the nights were mild.

At the hospital, Lopez's first priority Tuesday evening was a shower, said his daughter, Kathy Lening.

"Other than a couple cuts and scrapes, he seems to be fine. It's a miracle," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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