Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
December 21, 2023 ·  3 min read

The 3-Year-Old Boy Who Survived 2 Freezing Nights Says That A Bear Helped Keep Him Warm

Usually, when a child wanders off alone and gets lost, especially in the wilderness, the chances of finding them alive again are quite slim. This was the Hathaway family’s biggest fear when their 3-year-old son Casey got lost in the woods during the harsh winter of North Carolina. Miraculously, they found him three days later alive and well. Who does he credit for his survival in the woods? A bear. (1)

3-Year-Old Says A Bear Kept Him Warm While He Was Lost In The Woods

In January 2019, 3-year-old Casey Hathaway was at his grandmother’s house in North Carolina. He was playing in the backyard with two other children, but when the other two kids came inside, Casey was not with them. His parents describe him as a very curious child, so they thought that perhaps something took his interest and he wandered off to explore. When his grandmother realized that Casey was nowhere to be found, she called the police. 

“He was walking in the woods back there and we can’t find him,” she told the 9-1-1 dispatcher. “The other ones come through the house but left him there and he walked off somewhere and we can’t find him.” (2)

The search began immediately to find the little boy, as the incoming weather was set to be quite bad. The first night Casey was missing, the temperatures dropped to 20F. The subsequent night it was cold with heavy rainfall. The conditions were so bad, in fact, that the search had to be called off. Needless to say, the family was losing hope quickly. The chances of him being found were low. The chances of him being found alive were even slimmer.

Read: Rescued Kangaroo Gave Her Rescuers the Cutest Cuddles Every Morning

A Miracle

The search included helicopters, drones, k-9 units, divers, and hundreds of volunteers. Authorities urged volunteers to stay away the second night due to the brutal conditions. Not at all dressed for such weather, the family was losing hope quickly.

Then, after being missing for two nights, rescue teams responded to someone who reported hearing a baby crying in the woods. After some searching, they finally found him tangled up in some thorny bushes. The rescuers had to wade through waist-high water to get to the tiny boy. He was cold and wet with a few minor scratches, but otherwise unharmed. All he wanted was some water and his mother.

A Friendly Bear

The question on everyone’s minds was as to how this tiny little boy survived two nights in freezing, rainy conditions like that with nothing but a few scratches? While he was in the hospital afterward getting checked out by doctors, he informed his family how. According to Casey, he made a friend in the woods who helped to keep him warm. That friend was none other than a black bear.

“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” His aunt Breanna Hathaway wrote in a Facebook post. “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen.”

Naturally, the story seems pretty unbelievable. Coming from a curious, imaginative 3-year-old even less so. Of course, no one has any way to either confirm or deny whether or not his tale is true. There are plenty of black bears in North Carolina, so encountering one wouldn’t be a stretch. Befriending it enough so that it snuggles you and keeps you warm at nighttime, however? Well, we’ll probably never know. 

The important part of this story is the happy ending. This story could have ended in a tragedy like so many others like it in the past. Instead, the rescuers found Casey alive, healthy, and unharmed. Imaginary bear friend or not, that’s something to be celebrated.

Keep Reading: Gorilla Lovingly Embraces Man Who Rescued Her From Hunters


  1. Three-year-old boy missing in woods for two days says friendly bear kept him safe.” The Guardian. January 28, 2019.
  2. A boy who was lost in the woods says a bear kept him company. No one can prove it didn’t happen.CNN. Amir Vera , Samira Said. January 29, 2019.