Missing 3-Year-Old Says a Bear Protected Him While He Was Lost in the Woods

by Jon D. B.

It may sound like a folktale, but 3-year-old Casey Hathaway told his family he survived three days in the freezing woods thanks to a local black bear.

It’s been 3 years now since Casey Hathaway’s story shook America. At 3-years-old, Casey would disappear into the woods while playing at his grandmother’s remote North Carolina home. Amidst freezing nighttime temperatures and torrential rain, little Casey’s chances of survival were slim to none. But his story ends like any great folktale: with a happy ending.

While initial U.S. Marines and search and rescue operations failed, Casey would survive his harrowing days in the woods. And he says it was all because a black bear took him in and kept him warm.

Eventually, a neighbor heard Casey crying out from a thorn patch while walking her dog and was able to bring him to safety. The young boy had scrapes and bruises, but was otherwise completely healthy. And once he returned to his family, he told them all about the bear that saved his life.

“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” Breanna Hathaway, Casey’s Aunt wrote in a Facebook post at the time. “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. God is a good God. Miracles do happen,” she said.

Could a Black Bear Actually Have Kept Little Casey Hathaway Safe?

But as any other wildlife technician (like this Outsider) is surely thinking, is that even possible? Grizzly bears are fierce, incredible mothers. American black bears can be, too, but they tend to err on the side of caution and will even abandon their own young if things get rough.

To shed some light on this, North Carolina Zoo’s Chris Lasher was consulted at the time and had the following to say.

“This territory where little Casey was found is perfect bear territory. They would definitely live in this area. So it’s definitely possible,” Lasher told Inside Edition.

“Bears are very nurturing animals, but they take care of their own,” he continues. “I’m not sure they would see a young child in distress as possibly something they’d have to take care of.”

This wildlife tech is inclined to agree. But as any nature-loving human knows, stranger things have certainly happened. And as Casey’s own mother says: “If he says he was with a bear he was with a bear.”

While Far-Fetched, History Tells Similar Stories

While revisiting this story, Outsider came across two separate historical instances of bears reportedly taking in stranded children.

Way back in 1888, the New York Times would report a 2-year-old girl claiming that a bear had kept her warm enough to survive in the wilderness.

In 1955, Ida Mae Curtis, another 2-year-old, became lost for two days in Montana’s Kootenai National Forest. While there, the toddler says she was “comforted by a bear” and survived.

All three are amazing stories, to be sure. And we can’t prove they didn’t happen any more than we can say how unlikely they are. If anything, these two historical instances show that Casey is not alone in his harrowing bear of a tale.

Did a bear help a 3-year-old boy survive in the woods? That’s what Casey Hathaway says.

Inside Edition