A young boy who went missing in a remote area in the US state of Montana on Friday was found safe and well on Sunday having persevered through "extremely difficult" conditions, authorities said.
Three-year-old Ryker Webb vanished while playing with his dog at their family home in the northwest of the state, prompting a wide-scale search involving helicopters, dogs and drones.
Despite being faced with dense vegetation, wild bears and thunderstorms, as well as freezing temperatures dropping below 5 degrees Celsius, the toddler was somehow unscathed.
But a single decision the young boy made could be the reason why.
The three-year-old survived after seeking shelter in a shed that belonged to a local family who'd found him on Sunday.
They were checking on their cabin in the woods when they heard a young boy's voice, Lincoln County Sheriff Darren Short said.
"They heard a little boy’s voice from the shed out back where they keep a generator," Mr Short said. "So they went to the shed and there he was."
Rescuers said the search for Ryker was hampered by rain and poor visibility.
The shed where he took shelter — roughly 3.2 km from Ryker's home — was described as a very old log cabin-type structure, TODAY reported.
After questioning Ryker about his two-day adventure, the toddler reportedly revealed he'd become tired after a long walk through the woods.
That's when he discovered the shed so he stayed there out of the cold.
Boy's search for bugs provided clue for rescuers
Authorities said the toddler was "very, very scared" when they first found him, but his "eyes lit up" at the mention of being reunited with his parents.
Mr Short told TODAY Ryker left some "clues" along the way, indicating which direction he had wandered.
"Little Ryker is very interested in bugs and insects," the Sheriff said. "As ground searchers walked up the trail behind his house, they could tell some rocks had been freshly turned over like a kid would do if they were looking for bugs."
The three-year-old was taken to Cabinet Peaks Medical Center for evaluation but has since been discharged.
Authorities are now investigating why Ryker's parents waited "at least two hours" to report him missing, according to reports.
"We’re still looking into why he disappeared, and why he wasn’t being watched closely," Mr Short said.
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