A three-year-old girl survived sleeping rough for 11 nights in a wolf- and bear- infested Siberian forest by cuddling her pet puppy – which then went for help and brought rescuers to find her.
According to the Siberian Times Karina Chikitova, from the village of Olom in Olyokminsky district in the remote Sakha Republic, started to follow her unwitting father Rodion when he travelled to his home village on 29 July.
The girl’s mother assumed the girl and family dog – as yet unnamed – were with the father, but no-one knew what had happened because there was no phone signal. When the family spoke after four days and realised Karina was missing a search got underway in the forest, where wolves and bears are common.
Over 100 people were involved in the search, which also involved helicopters and drones which were unable to see Karina because she was hiding in long grasses which are common in the area in summertime. At one point rescuers were confronted by an angry bear.
It is thought Karina survived by eating wild berries and drinking from rivers, cuddling up to her puppy at night to keep warm. Although Russia’s coldest region, at this time of year the average night temperature was around 6C.
After more than a week her puppy ran home and rescuer Afanasiy Nikolayev described how he feared the worst. “Two days before we found Karina her puppy came back home. If she was to hug her puppy, we thought, this would have given her a chance to stay warm during nights and survive.”
Then the puppy led the rescuers back to the place where Karina was hiding. Nikolayev described the moment he found the little girl, which was captured on video. “I carried Karina myself to the car, and she was light as a bird. She was hardly 10kg – but amazingly she was fully conscious.”
Karina is now recovering in hospital and is believed to have suffered no serious injuries apart from insect bites and scratches to her feet after losing her shoes. “She doesn’t want to speak about the time she spent in taiga (the forest), or not yet,” says Nikolayev. “The only thing she said that she was eating berries and drank water from rivers.”