A four-year-old girl was recovering in hospital yesterday after being lost for nearly two weeks in a bear-infested forest in the Russian north with only her puppy to defend her.
Karina Chikitova was found emaciated but alive at the weekend, having survived 11 days in the Siberian wilderness, where temperatures plunge below freezing at night, with only berries to sustain her in what rescuers said was nothing short of a miracle.
The little girl had left her tiny village in Russia's Sakha region with her dog on July 29 to go and stay with her father who lived in a neighbouring hamlet.
But her father had gone to fight a wildfire and the girl apparently set off by herself into the forest to find him.
Her mother only realised after four days that her daughter had set off on her own into the Siberian taiga.
Despite a massive search, the breakthrough only came when Karina's puppy traipsed back to the hamlet -- in which only eight people live -- allowing rescuers to send search dogs on the puppy's trail.
"We were sure that the puppy was next to the little girl all this time, warming her at night and scaring away wild animals," rescuer Afanasiy Nikolayev told the Zvezda TV channel.
The search team came across Karina's footprints two days later and found her lying in tall grass about six kilometres north of her village, shaken but alive.
"It's simply incredible that she was found safe with so much wildlife in the forest," spokesman of the regional rescue service told the paper.