VIDEO/PHOTOS: Lost hunter talks: Jamey Mosch stalked by Everglades panther, hated cold, missed mom

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— He was stalked by a panther.

He lost his clothes and much of his gear in a patch of quicksand. He survived by eating raw catfish and bullfrogs.

But for 30-year-old Jamey Mosch, the worst part about being lost in the Everglades for four days last week was being wet, cold and fed on by mosquitoes.

“The only thing that I could think about was how cold I was,” Mosch said at a Sunday afternoon press conference at Physicians Regional Medical Center–Collier Boulevard, flanked by his mom and dad.

At one point, Mosch lifted his shirt, revealing hundreds, if not thousands, of red bug bites up and down his back.

“I couldn’t sleep at night,” Mosch said. “I would just sit there and shiver and shiver and shiver.”

Still, Mosch said the thought that he might die in the Everglades never crossed his mind.

“I knew I was making it out, just for my mother I was making it out,’’ he said. “Plus I wanted to show everyone that I knew that I could make it out.”

On Monday, Mosch, an experienced hunter originally from upstate New York who now lives in North Fort Myers, was hunting with a group of friends off Turner River Road just north of the Alligator Alley portion of Interstate 75 in the Big Cypress National Preserve. Around 1:30 p.m., while his friends were fixing a truck, he said he went off to hunt deer on his own, a move that he called, in retrospect, a “dumb mistake.”

Mosch didn’t know the area, wasn’t familiar with the environment, and unbeknownst to him, his compass was broken. His flashlight and cell phone died later when they got wet.

“I never saw woods like these woods before,” Mosch said of the Everglades. “This is something like you’d see in hell. Think of the worst jungle you can imagine and times it by 10.”

When he realized he was lost Monday night, Mosch fired rounds from his shotgun to alert his pals to his location. When they fired back, Mosch made a makeshift arrow on the ground pointing to where he believed the shots came from. He made a campfire and intended to walk out in the morning.

Instead, he got turned around and believes he was walking in circles. At one point, his knee popped, making moving slow and difficult.

Things took a turn for the worse on Tuesday, when Mosch said he got trapped up to his neck in a pit of mud or quicksand. He tried to toss his gun to dry land, he said, but instead lost it in the muck. He said he had to remove his pants, boots and jacket to avoid drowning.

“I lost everything in a blink of an eye,” he said.

Mosch saw the search helicopters overhead, but didn’t think they were looking for him. He could hear the nearby interstate, especially at night, but with no moon or flashlight, moving after dark was impossible, he said.

Not wanting to make himself sick by drinking swamp water, Mosch said he only drank twice during his four-day ordeal when he found natural springs. He ate a catfish and bullfrogs, but couldn’t cook them because he couldn’t start a fire. He tried to, unsuccessfully, using pieces of his broken watch and a diamond earring.

At one point, Mosch said he saw a small panther.

“He was stalking me for hours,” Mosch said.

Around 11 a.m. Friday, Mosch, who was a bit delirious from lack of food, water and sleep, heard someone call his name. He thought his mind was playing tricks on him, until he heard it again and again.

When rescuers from Desoto County eventually found him, Mosch said he was crying on the inside, but not physically, because he was dehydrated.

Mosch walked out as far as he could before a helicopter pulled him out of the swamp.

“I just wanted to not be like that wimpy guy who had to get rescued,” Mosch said. “I was embarrassed enough.”

He didn’t realize what day it was, thinking it was only Tuesday.

“Probably he was hallucinating,” said Dr. Prashanth Reddy, of Physicians Regional, who has cared for Mosch since his rescue.

Mosch, who said he had another four or five days of survival left in him, said he would have made it out eventually.

When asked if he would ever hunt in the Everglades again, Mosch’s mother, Maureen Mosch-Whitney, was quick to respond for him.

“He will never. He’s not. No,” she said, adding that she just bought him a GPS unit.

Maureen Mosch-Whitney calls Jamey her “baby boy.” A few years back, she said she lost a daughter in a car wreck, in which she was injured as well. She couldn’t handle losing another child, she said.

“I knew in my heart, if he was gone, I was gone,” she said.

Mosch, who doesn’t have health insurance, was kept in the hospital over the weekend for tests and observation. Sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a black, button-down shirt, he said he was so sore Saturday he felt like he had been hit by a semi. He was feeling better Sunday.

Mosch’s doctors said they don’t expect he will suffer any long-term side effects from his time in the Everglades.

Despite his self-confidence, Mosch said he knows he could have died out there. He said he was inspired by his rescuers to pursue a career where he, too, can save people’s lives.

Mosch said he wanted to thank everyone who searched for him, especially the guys from DeSoto County, as well as the hospital employees and everyone who prayed for him.

The ordeal has brought Mosch’s family closer, he said. His father, Kevin Whitney, best summed up the family’s take on the situation.

“All in all,” he said. “It’s going to be a pretty darn good Thanksgiving.”

Earlier

Jamey Mosch wasn’t afraid of the gators.

He wasn’t afraid of the snakes or panthers, either.

The biggest concern while lost for four days in the Everglades last week was the cold.

“Bring the panther on. Bring a tiger on. Don’t bring that cold on anymore,’’ said Mosch, 30, a North Fort Myers resident and transplant from New York.

Mosch, the hunter lost in the Big Cypress National Preserve for several days last week, had a press conference today at Physicians Regional Medical Center-Collier Boulevard.

During his four days in the Everglades, Mosch said he lost his clothes and equipment in a patch of quicksand.

He believes he was stalked at one point by a panther and he ate raw catfish and bullfrogs, but he always knew he would make it out alive.

At the press conference at the hospital where he still is getting care, Mosch said he didn’t realize anyone was looking for him.

“I knew I was going to make it out just for my mother,’’ he said. “I was going to make it out -- plus I wanted to show everyone that I knew that I could make it out.”

When rescuers found him Friday morning, after he went missing Monday, he was suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and injury. He had lost his camouflage clothing, his shotgun and even his sense of time.

He believed he had four or five days of survival left in him when he was found, he said today.

Return to naplesnews.com later this afternoon for photos, a video and a complete and updated story from the press conference.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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