A friendly bear is being credited with protecting an American boy who went missing last week.
Three-year-old Casey Hathaway spent two nights lost in the frozen North Carolina wilderness before rescuers were able to find him.
Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes says the boy was playing with two other children in his grandmother's backyard in Ernul on Tuesday, but didn't come inside with them.
His family searched for him for 45 minutes before calling 911, Hughes said.
"He was walking in the woods back there and we can't find him," his great-grandmother told the 911 dispatcher. "The other ones come through the house but left him there and he walked off somewhere and we can't find him."
The FBI, NCIS, dozens of volunteers and the US Marine Corps also joined the effort to find the boy, Hughes said.
Casey Hathaway was missing for two days.
Authorities employed helicopters, drones and K-9 units, Craven County Emergency Management Director Stanley Kite said. Divers also assessed nearby ponds, WTVD reported.
Authorities had been concerned that Casey wasn't adequately dressed for the cold temperatures. Hundreds of volunteers had been helping with the search but had been told to stay away Thursday due to heavy rains and strong winds.
While no one is certain how he managed to survive, Hughes told one reporter that Casey told everyone he "had a friend in the woods that was a bear" which was with him the whole time.
The validity of the toddler's statements are hard to determine, but North Carolina is indeed home to a number of black bears.
The claims were repeated by his aunt, Brenna Hathaway.
“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” Hathaway wrote in a Facebook post, according to The Guardian. “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.”
Hughes told reporters that Casey is recovering well and was unharmed by his experience, and when found he just wanted to see his mother.
"He's good, he's up and talking," Casey's mother told reporters. "He's already asked to watch Netflix, so he's good."
What was really special was how Casey brightened up when his little sister was brought in to see him, Hughes said.
Hughes said there is no sign of abduction in this case.
- with content from AP and CNN