A three-year-old boy who went missing for two days and survived alone in the woods has told his family he "hung out with a bear" in the woods.
Rescuers responding to reports of a baby crying found Casey Hathaway tangled up in thorny bushes in North Carolina, cold but safe on Thursday night, about half a mile from where he went missing.
The young boy had gone missing on Tuesday after playing with two other children in his grandmother's back garden.
Hundreds of volunteers had been helping with the search but had been told to stay away on Thursday due to heavy rains and strong winds.
Craven County Sheriff's Office said they responded to a tip Casey was heard calling for his mother.
Chip Hughes, the county sheriff, said the three-year-old "did say that he had a friend in the woods that was a bear that was with him".
The claim was reportedly repeated by the boy’s aunt Breanna Hathaway.
"He said he hung out with a bear for two days," Ms Hathaway wrote in a Facebook post.
"God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is (a) good God. Miracles do happen," Casey's aunt added.
The county sheriff also praised the young boy for being "a survivor" on Friday, before adding rescuers had to wade through waist-high water to reach the boy, who stands at 2ft 2in (66cm).
Casey is "resting" at CarolinaEast Medical Centre after escaping with a few scrapes, the sheriff added.