A one-year-old boy who spent 12 hours alone overnight in the cold, damp woods near Quebec's Eastern Townships likely cried all night and had no tears left when police located him, says the officer who rescued the baby.

Const. Patrick Sullivan carried the baby out of the woods near the town of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, about 120 kilometres east of Montreal, around noon on Sunday.

Police say the boy somehow managed to survive overnight despite wearing only a T-shirt and soggy diaper in the rain. Temperatures dipped to 5 Celsius overnight.

"I was so happy to see that this child wasn't dead, that he was alive," Sullivan told reporters in French. "He wasn't even crying. He tried. But I sensed that he was crying and screaming so much during the night that he couldn't even cry anymore. That really touched me."

Twelve hours earlier, the baby's mother had called police saying her husband had taken their child in the family minivan.

About 20 minutes later, police located the minivan in a ditch near a wooded area, but did not find the father or the baby.

Around 7 a.m. Sunday, a woman picked up the father who was hitchhiking alone, according to police. The man told the woman that he needed a ride to the hospital.

However, when the woman stopped at a friend's house on the way, police say the man pushed her out of the car and drove away.

Not long after, officers found the man at the hospital in Cowansville, said provincial police spokesperson Louis-Philippe Ruel.

In the meantime, a massive search was launched for the baby that included a team of officers searching on the ground, a K-9 unit and a police helicopter, which spotted the baby from the air.

When Sullivan reached the baby, he wrapped him in a thermal blanket before sprinting 100 metres through the brush to a waiting ambulance.

"I took him in my arms and I didn't let go until I got to the ambulance," said Sullivan, 33, who is the father of a two-month-old boy.

Sullivan, who has been a police officer for seven years, said the baby seemed healthy, except for mild frostbite on his cheeks.

"I had doubts about his condition," he said. "I wasn't expecting a healthy little guy -- I was expecting him to be dead."

The baby cradled a provincial police teddy bear in the ambulance ride to the hospital, Sullivan said.

The boy was expected to be released on Monday into his mother's care.

The father was arraigned in Granby, Que., on charges of robbery and criminal negligence.

He is to undergo a psychiatric evaluation to determine if he is fit to stand trial. His next court appearance is scheduled for next Monday.

With files from The Canadian Press