Last week, three-year-old Casey Hathaway went missing in the woods outside his grandmother’s rural North Carolina home. He’d been out and about playing with friends and failed to come home when called. No big deal, you might think, except he never came back at all. For two nights Hathaway, who’d wandered off, was lost in a forested area with freezing winter temperatures descending into the low 20s Fahrenheit. His family feared the worst, but two days later, he was found alive and crying, tangled in a thorn bush. Young Hathaway told his family he was saved by a bear. A friendly black bear that sat with him and kept him warm. Experts say there’s no way. “Wild bears aren’t friends with people,” said Chris Servheen, a bear researcher at the University of Montana. “I don’t want to say he’s not telling the truth, he obviously thinks he’s seen things and maybe he’s got a teddy bear at home. But I’ve seen no evidence anything like that has ever happened.” But if just the idea of a friendly bear kept Hathaway alive, was he really so wrong?

Photo: Sheila deVera