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Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, NC) - July 17, 1998, Friday

Surviving for an extended period of time in the wilderness is easier than you may think, according to one of the premier trackers and wilderness survival teachers in the country.

"Actually it's easy - even with mild training it's fairly simple," said Tom Brown Jr., author of numerous books, including "The Tracker" and "Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival." Brown has run his school in Asbury, N.J., for 20 years and been called in on numerous high-profile searches, frequently working for law enforcement agencies.

"If you're not trained well enough, survival in the woods can be taxing, grueling and the proverbial struggle between man and nature," said Brown, 48. "But if you're trained well enough, it can be like living in the Garden of Eden."

Brown isn't saying that such a lifestyle wouldn't wear on a person.

"Let's face it, Geronimo got tired of it and gave up," he said.

Brown, also the author of "Tom Brown's Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants," estimates that throughout the course of a year in the Nantahala area "there's probably in the neighborhood of close to 500 edible or medicinal plants." A human could survive off vegetation and anything "finned, furred, feathered or scaled."

A tracker since age 7 when he learned the skills from an Apache elder, Brown said he's intrigued with the cunning of FBI fugitive Eric Robert Rudolph.

"I'm not interested in the money," he said, referring to the $ 1 million reward riding on Rudolph. "I'd just like to run the guy down to be honest. Every now and then one of these cases comes along that really gets my interest."

Brown said he's "baffled" the FBI hasn't called him and his team in yet. The expert tracker is familiar with the Nantahala area, where agents have been searching for Rudolph since Sunday. It's a a rugged, steep and lush forest with heavy underbrush and plentiful rhododendron thickets.

That's good tracking territory, according to Brown, who says tracking humans even across rock and hardwood floors is relatively easy for an experienced tracker.

But he suspects Rudolph may not be doing a lot of hiking these days. Brown says the FBI's helicopter with infrared detectors would pick Rudolph up easily during the cooler nights. Also, where he walks he'll leave a trail of footprints and other signs of human movement.

"I'd say there are two possibilities as to why he's not been found," Brown said. "He's probably located a cave - actually there's quite a few in that area, and some of them are probably only known by a few local people. So he might be in one of those, or he's got an accomplice and he's being taken care of. They (FBI) should be checking every geological survey they can get their hands on looking for caves."

A guy like Rudolph, who has military survival training and knows the area well could elude searchers for an extended period of time, particularly if he has a wellhidden cave with a natural spring in it or nearby. Stream water could cause serious intestinal distress, as much of it contains animal waste bacteria.

Someone with basic outdoors training also could elude tracking dogs by walking in streams. Heavy dew and rain also can throw off the scent.

While he's impressed with Rudolph's skills, Brown is confident he'll be caught sooner or later. Rudolph will grow weary of cave life, or leave behind signs from cooking or bodily functions.

"It's going to start wearing on him," Brown said. "As he gets more complacent, he's going to make a mistake. What he's really going to have to worry about is the dogs, and man trackers, people who can actually follow footprints."

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