A three-year-old boy who went missing for two days has said he was kept safe by a bear.
Casey Hathaway sparked a search by dogs, helicopters and hundreds of people after he went missing in the woods near his great-grandmother’s house in North Carolina, US.
After temperatures plummeted in the state, authorities had been concerned that Casey was not adequately dressed for the cold, but he was found two days later tangled in bushes about 100ft (45m) into the woods.
After the rescue, Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told WCTI 12 that Casey said “he had a friend in the woods that was a bear that was with him”.
According to the local news outlet, that claim was repeated in a Facebook post by Casey’s aunt, Breanna Hathaway, who wrote: “Casey is healthy, smiling and talking. He said he hung out with a bear for two days.
“God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.”
North Carolina has a high population of black bears, but it is not clear whether Casey’s was imaginary.
Casey was found after he was heard calling for his mother, Shane Grier, who said he is doing well and has “already asked to watch Netflix”.