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AZTEC — San Juan County families are going on a bear hunt, and they're not scared. 

The families are not looking for big black bears or grizzlies. Instead, they are hunting for teddy bears or images of bears in windows of businesses, houses and cars.

Melissa Meechan organized the bear hunt using Facebook to give children something to do while maintaining social distancing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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“The goal is to keep it going until the restrictions are lifted,” she said.

She said she first heard of bear hunts happening in other communities and thought it would be a fun activity for local children.

The bear hunts are based on the 1989 book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. The book and the associated song are popular for many young children. The song includes motions that children do, including acting as if they are pushing tall grasses aside to get through.

Since Meechan started the event, there have been more than 80 streets listed on the Facebook page as locations where bears can be found. She learned within a short time of starting the event that another community member had also been considering doing the same thing. Jamie Williams Felkner started helping her with the event afterward.

Meechan’s children are now a bit old to go on a bear hunt. She also is a third grade teacher in Farmington and said the bear hunt is intended to help small children.

“These kids have had their whole world kind of taken away from them,” she said.

She said the bear hunt gives them a chance to get out and do something fun in the community without endangering their health or putting other people at risk.

The hunts are done by families driving through the community looking for the bears.

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Meechan said the largest number of bears she has heard of a single family finding was 35.

The community’s creativity was one of the biggest surprises for Meechan. She said one family painted a bear in their window and another has kind messages displayed with the bear.

“If it’s not a bear, put something out there,” Meechan said.

One woman placed a stuffed duck on a fence post and a dentist’s office in Farmington has a bunny in the window.

Parents who want to take their children on bear hunts can check the Facebook page for streets where the bears have been found and participants can add streets that aren’t yet listed. The url is https://bit.ly/2Rb6jSS.

Meechan said the bear hunt also helps people feel like they are making a difference in their community.

“Right now people need to feel like they’re doing something,” she said.

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Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.

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