Did a Bear Really Take Care of a Missing North Carolina Boy?

It's been nearly three weeks since 3-year-old Casey Hathaway was found alive in the North Carolina woods, and Inside Edition talked to a wildlife expert about the young boy's claim a bear watched over him in the wilderness.

Did a bear really help a 3-year-old boy survive the woods for days? 

That's what little Casey Hathaway says. Casey went missing last month after he wandered into the woods while he was playing at a relative's North Carolina house. His disappearance prompted a massive search that made national news, with hundreds of searchers joining in to look for the little boy. 

Temperatures dropped, and combined with the driving rain, some feared the boy might be found dead.

But three days later, a neighbor walking her dog heard cries coming out of the woods and alerted rescuers. Casey was discovered tangled up in a thorn bush, cold and pleading for his mom. 

"I don't think there's a word to describe how happy I was," Casey's mother, Brittany Hathaway, told Inside Edition of the moment she learned her son was alive. 

"I wanted to go home," Casey added. 

Asked how he survived, young Casey credited a bear with keeping him safe. 

Is it really possible? Inside Edition spoke to wildlife expert Chris Lasher to get his take.

"It is possible that Casey saw a bear," Lasher said, adding that where Casey was found is "perfect bear territory."

Could Casey have been mistaken for a cub? That is less clear, Lasher said. 

"Bears are very nurturing animals, but they take care of their own. I'm not sure a bear would see a young child in distress as a possible something they have to take care of," Lasher explained. 

Still, Casey's mom believes her son. "If he said he was with a bear, he was with a bear."