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Napans host 'bear hunts' during COVID-19 quarantine

Napans host 'bear hunts' during COVID-19 quarantine

From the Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan series

Napans may be stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, but dozens of locals are trying to make the shelter-at-home order at little more … bearable.

Taking a page from Michael Rosen’s 1989 children’s book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt,” people in Napa – and across the globe — are placing teddy bears and other stuffed animals in homes’ windows to create a scavenger hunt-like activity for kids who are stuck at home.

“It just gives kids a smile,” said Napa mom Samantha Des Jardins. “And you can’t give out enough smiles at this time.”

It’s simple to join the Napa bear hunt, said city of Napa Public Information Officer Jaina French. She’s been tasked with spreading the news of the Napa Bear Hunt on social media.

Just place a teddy bear or other stuffed animal in your window. Then keep an eye out for other bears in your own neighborhood.

French is encouraging locals to share photos online of the teddy bears and stuffed animals that locals encounter on their adventure by using the hashtag #NapaBearHunt.

“If we all use the same hashtag #NapaBearHunt, then everyone can join in on the fun by seeing photos of bears from all over our community,” she said.

Why a bear hunt?

“In a time when we really can’t be physically connected,” a bear hunt “gives everyone a chance to do that while maintaining that social distance that is so crucial right now,” said French.

It seems to be working, because more and more bears are taking up residence in Napa windows.

Des Jardins, owner of Napa Treehouse Preschool & Daycare on Maplewood Avenue near Lincoln Avenue, said she read about the bear hunt on social media and wanted to join the fun.

“I thought it was such a wonderful idea for the kids around town,” said Des Jardins. The shelter-at-home order means that all group activities, birthday parties and other gatherings are now cancelled.

“It’s just a gesture to say even though we’re at home we’re still connected,” said Des Jardins.

Because her day care is on the second floor, Des Jardin’s bear is posted outside on a porch railing. When it rains “we’re probably going to put a little raincoat on him or put out an umbrella” to protect her bear from the elements.

Napa parent Valentina Rose recently put a bear out in her window on Big Ranch Road. She has two young daughters, 2 1/2 years and 16 months old, “and honestly, I have been a little bit jealous because I was seeing all this stuff the moms are doing right now with their kids” on social media.

As a small business owner, “We are working even harder,” during this shelter-at-home order, Rose said. “I don’t have a lot of time to do all these nice things all the (other) moms are doing with the other kids.”

Displaying a bear “was a way to get my kids excited about something,” said Rose. “It was a way to try and be a little bit more present right now for them.”

Staying connected with your community while maintaining social distancing, “just keeps the community spirit up,” said Rose.

Monica Barrows isn’t a parent, but she has a bear in her window on Seminary Street.

“I just thought it was a very charming idea to put a smile on peoples’ faces and give kids something to do as they are out on a walk,” Barrows said.

Barrows just happened to have a bear she displays every Christmas. “He’s a British soldier – he’s doing his duty,” she said with a laugh.

“I have a lot of friends with kids and I feel extremely sympathetic for them,” she said. “It’s really hard for parents to have to be sheltered in place and most people are working full time and trying to home-school their kids. It’s a really challenging time.”

“I’m encouraging all my friends to participate.”

Barrows said she recently left the house for groceries after spending more than two weeks at home. “I’m going to go hunt down the bears myself.”

With three kids younger than age 6 and a 9-week-old puppy, Lexey Riccomini has her hands full. But that hasn’t stopped her from joining the Napa Bear Hunt.

“We were out on a walk and just started noticing bears,” Riccomini said. It got the kids’ attention, which is most appreciated, she said.

“It’s exhausting” to keep the kids occupied day in and day out while not being able to do normal kid activities, she said. “Having some help from neighbors was very nice. It made the walk more exciting.”

The family has since put out their own bear in their window on Twin Oaks Drive in Browns Valley. “It’s a really simple thing to do and if it brightens the day at all, might as well— there’s not much else we can do right now to stay social.”

Editor’s note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit

Complete coronavirus coverage from the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star, and The Weekly Calistogan

This webpage contains all Napa County coronavirus coverage as featured in the Napa Valley Register, St. Helena Star and The Weekly Calistogan. This page will be updated several times a day as news comes in. Please bookmark this page to stay on top of local developments.

You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or

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Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.

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