(CNN) — Wilderness training may have played a role in the survival of two sisters, ages 5 and 8, who were found safe Sunday after spending 44 hours in California woods, police say.
Caroline Carrico, 5 and Leia Carrico, 8 were found Sunday, March 3 less than two miles from their home in Humboldt County, according to County Sheriff William Honsal.
The girls had last been seen at their home Friday afternoon and Honsal described their discovery close to Richardson Grove State Park about 10:30 a.m. local time Sunday as “a miracle.”
“This was rugged territory, this is an extreme environment and how they were out there for 44 hours is pretty amazing but it shows a resilience of people that actually grew up in this community. These girls definitely have a survival story to tell,” he said during a news conference Sunday.
“The information we gathered is that they were trained, through 4-H, for outdoor survival and we believe that that did play a part, but we’re only speculating right now.”
4-H is the largest youth development organization in the US. It offers programs such as camping and hands-on projects in areas like science, health and agriculture.
The Carrico sisters told first responders they had gotten lost following a deer trail and survived by drinking water from huckleberry leaves, CNN affiliate KRCR-TV reported.
Found ‘safe and sound’
Honsal said Piercy Fire Chief Delbert Crumley and firefighter Abram Hill located the pair after following tracks in the search area about 1.4 miles south of the girls’ home.
The girls were found “in good spirits, not injured,” he said. “The initial assessment was that they were dehydrated, they were cold — but they were well.”
Honsal said first responders provided them with fresh warm clothes and water.
Lt. Mike Fridley was given the task of informing the girls’ mother that they had been found. “She melted on the phone, we had to hang up because she couldn’t talk,” Fridley told reporters.
Kate Larsen, a reporter with CNN affiliate KGO-TV, posted a photo to Twitter of the two girls eating pizza in a hospital Sunday night.
“Their Mom told me they hid in a Huckleberry bush and lost their voices yelling for help until rescuers found them this AM,” Larsen wrote.