Bear riding giraffe

Players in the Ashley County Bear Hunt game place teddy bears or other stuffed animals in their windows for other players to seek out from their cars. The game provides players with a chance to get out of the house and do something without breaking social distancing guidance that has been issued to fight the COVID-19 outbreak. (VERSHAL HOGAN/News Observer)

Right now, hunters are stalking bears in the streets of Crossett.

If they’re lucky, they might bag a brown bear. Or maybe Winnie the Pooh. Possibly an elephant. Perhaps Mickey Mouse.

No, a menagerie hasn’t escaped the zoo or the world of fiction. People are, instead, uniting in a game to fight quarantine boredom.

The game in question is the Ashley County Bear Hunt, which is part of a larger national trend. Participants place teddy bears or other stuffed animals in their home windows or outside their doors, and the other players drive around town trying to spot the bears. Some are carefully hidden, while others are placed in open lines of sight.

The game is an easy way to fight cabin fever while still practicing social distancing. Some players do it just for fun, while others post pictures of their finds on social media to encourage more to join in.

Allison Dobbins — who has children ages 12, four and two — organized the Ashley County version of the game after seeing that someone had a similar version in Mountain View, where her mother-in-law lives. She said she’d heard of a few people doing it already, but after seeing the Mountain View version she said she fell in love with the idea and — after asking permission to use the idea — organized a Facebook event for Crossett.

“People really seem to enjoy it,” Dobbins said. “I have gotten a lot of positive comments about how they love the idea.

“I have seen a lot of businesses and individuals joining in the fun, doing things from small stuffed animals to huge ones that even the smallest kiddo can spot easily.”

Dobbins said in her case, the family had a difficult time finding a bear, so they used Disney characters.

“It has been a real joy to see people driving by our house slow and seeing them,” she said. “It’s been a blessing to see their faces light up.”

The way people have joined in the bear hunt has shown how people are finding ways of expressing solidarity during a time when social ties are harder to maintain, Dobbins said.

“I love to see the spirit,” she said. “It’s not just here in Ashley County. You see video clips of people around the world joining together to do things while using their social distancing. It’s inspiring to see good in the world.”

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