A four-year-old boy from Arizona was returned to his family after the Border Patrol found and rescued him from the desert after a harrowing 24-hour search.

In a statement released on Dec. 23, the FBI revealed that the boy wandered 5.5 miles off his family’s home on the Tohono O’odham Nation, near Sells, Arizona, while he was outside playing with his dog on Dec. 17.

The family noticed his disappearance around 10:00 a.m. After unsuccessful efforts to locate him, they reported the child missing to law enforcement around 11:45 a.m.

Tohono O’odham Police, Customs and Border Protection’s Border Patrol Search, Trauma, and Rescue (BORSTAR) and the FBI pooled their resources to search for the boy.

“Time was of the essence as the boy could quickly succumb to hypothermia based on the time of year and weather conditions,” the FBI said. “There was also an added danger of the boy falling victim to wildlife as the Sonoran Desert is known for javelina, coyotes, and mountain lions.”

Despite relentless searching by air and foot throughout the night and into the next day, more than 30 officers and agents who assisted in the search still had not located the boy.

Then a helicopter from CBP’s Air and Marine Operations spotted the boy waving for them just after noon on Dec. 18.

“He was just 200 yards ahead of the officers on the ground. BORSTAR agents on the ground were able to provide basic first aid and blankets, and the boy was taken to the hospital for evaluation,” the FBI said.

“After surviving a cold night in the desert, the boy was deemed healthy and placed back with his family,” they said.

According to the statement, the boy had walked in large circles and was found approximately 5.5 miles from his home. He walked an estimated 12-15 miles throughout the 24 hours.

The family’s dog appeared to be with him most of the time.

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