3-year-old Casey Hathaway who went missing for two days after getting lost in the woods in North Carolina told his family and rescuers that a bear kept him safe.
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told local news that they found the boy 40 meters into the woods after responding to a report that a child crying could be heard nearby.
Despite freezing conditions during the night, Hathaway was found a little lethargic but warm, the sheriff said.
Asked if the child had been able to verbalise just how he'd managed to stay alive in the forest by himself, the sheriff said: "He did say he had a friend in the woods that was a bear that was with him."
This claim was reportedly echoed by the boy's aunt Breanna Hathaway in a Facebook post that has since been deleted.
"He said he hung out with a bear for two days," Hathaway wrote, according to BuzzFeed News. "God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen."
According to NCpedia, the black bear is the only species of bear found in North Carolina where they are thought to number about 16,000. Their diet includes berries, nuts, and small animals and attacks on humans are very rare.
Hathaway reportedly added that the family would set up a post office box to accommodate the influx of gifts being sent to Casey, but warned that he could only house so many stuffed bears.
"We appreciate the thoughts but we do want to recognize that everyone wants to get Casey a stuff little bear and although we absolutely love that remember that he can only home so many."
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