Grace McGregor heard about the trend that was sweeping social media from a friend, and immediately she knew she wanted to get involved.
So she posted in a Facebook page for Hyde Park residents, explaining that people all over the country were placing plush teddy bears on their windowsills, and then challenging children to go out with their parents to try to find them all.
In a world suddenly shuttered by the coronavirus, where schools are closed and close contact is discouraged, a lot of people in McGregor’s neighborhood seemed to think a scavenger hunt sounded like a great idea.
“We were able to hunt for some the same day,” McGregor told the Globe in an e-mail. “I thought the bear hunt would help us to get out and breathe some fresh air and I was shocked by the response.”
A few days after her initial post, the movement in Hyde Park continued to surge, she said. Now, dozens and dozens of bears can be glimpsed on the other side of the glass window panes of people’s homes, gazing out and greeting the families searching for the soft toys from down on the streets.
“My kids love it and it helps them practice their counting skills too," said McGregor, who has two bears sitting on the sills of her second-floor windows at home. “The neighborhood has been amazing with helping to make walks [and] bike rides extra special during this trying time.”
One resident, Alison Brown, decided to step in recently as more people in the Facebook group said they had put up bears. She created an interactive online map, called “Quarantine Teddy Bears," showing where they can be found. The map uses tiny bear icons to pinpoint the locations, and as of Wednesday had more than 70 markers.
“It was something I knew how to do and was easy to do on Google Maps, and solved the problem [of where to find them] very quickly,” Brown said of making the map for neighbors. “I liked it because it put me in contact with people in Hyde Park that I didn’t know.”
Since its inception, people in neighborhood Facebook groups from all over have been sharing and posting pictures of their communities joining the craze, a safe diversion meant to stave off boredom and offer distanced interactions, much like the children leaving each other chalk message on sidewalks, or households putting up their Christmas lights as the threat of the coronavirus has continued to spread.
There have been reports of bears adorning windowsills in Somerville, Wareham, Fairhaven, Milton, Dorchester, Malden, and more. Much like Hyde Park, both Cambridge and Wilmington have created interactive maps that make finding the areas with an abundance of bears much easier.
A public Facebook page with 2,200 members that’s specifically dedicated to all-things-bears, called “BEAR HUNT OF MASSACHUSETTS," has also sprouted up in recent weeks.
“Our families are going on a bear hunt! Put a teddy or other any kind stuffed animal in your window, on a porch, tie them to a tree, mailbox or pole,” the public page says. “The creativity is endless.”
McGregor, of Hyde Park, said it’s been hard to gauge how many people have actually gone out in her area to find the bears, since everyone seems to be trying to practice the stringent social-distancing rules. But even with being apart, the neighborhood feels closer together.
“It’s community, health, and education," she said, “all rolled into one.”