Her dog saved her by caring for Karina for nine days then returning home and guiding rescuers to her.
Details are emerging today of the heroic rescue of the girl in the remote Sakha Republic, thanks to her loyal and loving dog.
Karina Chikitova was huddled in tall grass after wandering away from home, apparently following her father Rodion who had left to go to his native village on 29 July.
The mother believed she and her dog had gone with her father and in this part of remote Siberia had no way to check because of a lack of phone connections, discovering the awful truth only four days later, when a search was launched.
The girl aged three years and seven months survived by eating wild berries and drinking river water in territory roamed by wild bears and wolves.
Little Karina made herself a bed in the grasses, which are common to the south-west of Sakha in summer, but they meant that helicopters and drones were useless in searching for her in the bear-infested taiga.
Ininitally her family and the rescue teams were distraught when the dog – which has not been named despite its heroic role – returned to the girl’s village of Olom in Olyokminsky district.
‘Two days before we found Karina her puppy came back home,’ said Afanasiy Nikolayev, spokesman for the Sakha Republic Rescue Service.
‘That was the moment when our hearts sank, because we thought at least with her dog Karina had chances to survive – night in Yakutia are cold and some areas have already gone into minus temperatures.
‘If she was to hug her puppy, we thought, this would have given her a chance to stay warm during nights and survive.
‘So when her dog came back we thought ‘that’s it’ – even if she was alive – and chances were slim – now she would have definitely have lost all hopes. Our hearts truly and deeply sank.’
But the puppy guided the rescuers to the stranded girl.
‘It was Karina’s puppy that helped the adults find the girl,’ said a report by NTV news. ‘When it came back home two days ago her family had lost hope, thinking this definitely meant Karina had no chance.
‘But then it was the puppy that showed rescuers the way to Karina, and in the morning she was found.’ The report said ‘she was conscious and looked surprisingly well.
‘She was given food and drinks, and then with her mother she was first sent to the district hospital and then to Yakutsk.
‘She doesn’t want to speak about the time she spent in taiga, or not yet. The only thing she said that she was eating berries and drank water from rivers’.
Nikolayev said that the rescuers saw traces of her bare feet. ‘We began searches, thinking that if she had lost her shoes she would try and stay away from the deep forest, because there is a lot of sharp sticks there. In the morning, almost right after we began searches – we only made 20 metres – we saw Karina sitting in the grass. We rushed to her, got her a little tea and grabbed her to run back to the car and doctors.
‘I carried Karina myself to the car, and she was light as a bird. She was hardly ten kilograms – but amazingly she was fully conscious.’
Ekaterina Andreeva, a psychologist with the rescue team, said: ‘We can say that the girl’s mind was not hurt. She is talking, she reacts normally to everything around her. She recalls what happened to her.’
Karina is now in hospital in Yakutsk where medics are seeking to build up her strength. She had no serious injuries like broken bones, only scratches, especially on her feet because she was walking without shoes for a long time.
She was badly bitten by mosquitoes and other insects.
Lyudmila Nikolaeva, head of children care department of Republican hospital Number 1, said: ‘The patient was moved from intensive care to a regular ward, she is getting food in small portions’.
Around 100 people had been hunting Karina, accompanied by hunters and special forces soldiers in an area especially known for bears.