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Rudolph Has Advantage With Survivalist Skills

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ANDREWS — Tips are trickling in, but so far authorities have not had a glimpse of Eric Rudolph. Thursday authorities held a news conference in Andrews where the suspected abortion clinic bomber was last seen.

They say they're still confident that he's hiding out in the mountains of North Carolina. By air and by foot, federal investigators continue to comb a 30-mile area in Cherokee County.

Many think Rudolph has the upper hand. He's a trained survivalist and knows the land. The people searching for him don't.

For a survivalist, the mountains of North Carolina are rich in the resources to keep a fugitive alive. Authorities believe Rudolph has been living off the land quite successfully since February. The question is how does he manage do that and avoid capture.

More than 200 officers have been unable to find him, not even with the infrared gear of the highway patrol helicopter. Chuck Coats, owner of a military surplus store and a retired highway patrol officer with military training, says Eric Rudolph's childhood has helped him elude authorities.

"The people from there, if they were born and raised there, know the territory and have some navigation skills," said Coats. "They could stay on the move indefinitely."

Rudolph's army survival training is likely helping to keep him alive. The army issued a survival book in 1970 which demonstrates such things as how to trap animals and which bugs and roots are edible.

But there's more to long-term survival than finding food and shelter. According to Coats a lot of it is mental.

"It would take a certain type of person ... a certain will to do that," said Coats. "It's not something I would want to do, even with the knowledge in the book."

Coats says Rudolph could be brought down by exposure to the elements or some kind of injury. The mountains aren't a germ free environment and he says if Rudolph doesn't have a first aid kit to treat a wound, infection could set in quickly, slowing him down.

But, he says, if Rudolph is healthy he's holding the cards, not the officers scouring the mountains for him.

"He's got the advantage on them because he knows where they are and they don't know where he is," said Coats.

Despite the advantages Rudolph has right now, Coats thinks he'll make a mistake and get caught. He says the officers will wear him down eventually and he will be found.