Map of San Francisco teddy bears

At the end of nearly every day of sheltering-in-place with young children, your home will appear to have been ransacked by burglars.

Burglars, however, do not tend to paint on the couch, beg you to wipe their rear ends, or wheedle you into paying for college. And — with exceptions — they don’t tend to return and rip the place up every day.

Parenthood is a hell of an endeavor. And the kids do learn to repeat all the creative things you say.

So, pandemic or not, you do need to get out of the house. Enter teddy bears.

In cities across the United States, house and apartment dwellers have taken to posing teddy bears in their windows to provide families with young children an amusing pretense for a walk, all while staying a goodly distance away from everyone else.

Here in San Francisco, a teddy bear safari map circulated on Glen Park and Bernal Heights parents groups in late March has quickly expanded from a smattering of stuffed animals in those neighborhoods to a slew of bears spanning much of the city — more than 1,000 of them.

A white elephant greets passers-by in the Exelsior. Photo by Joe Eskenazi.

“We as parents are under so much stress too and it’s hard to have the mental energy to come up with things to do,” says Amber Levinson, who started this map. “I saw several folks sharing the idea of bear hunts on social media and thought it could be a fun adventure for kids to engage in, and an easy way for neighbors to show support and togetherness. I wasn’t sure how many people were doing it though, or where to find bears, and I thought, without a map there’s a risk of a disappointing outing with a little one.”

So she created a Google Map, added three pins for herself and some neighbors, and submitted it on the parents’ groups. Within a day, there were 50 pins — and, now, not quite two weeks later, many, many more than that.

“After that, folks started commenting on posts, asking if they could use it in other neighborhoods, and bears started popping up in ‘hoods all around the city,” she says. “I saw messages from others that it got them to get out and forget their worries for a little while, which makes me so happy. I love that we helped people in a small way to get out and have some fun during these hard times.”

So, stay at home. Until you can’t. Then be safe. And happy hunting.

And good luck cleaning the couch.

Visit the teddy bear map here.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. How charmingly wonderful.
    One of the joys of parenting here in SF.
    Hope it spreads widely around the US.

  2. I would love to add our house, and others we find. But the map link you shared doesn’t appear to be editable. Am I missing something, or is there another way to access it?


      1. I am having the same issue – I can’t drop a pin to add our bear to the map – and I’m on my laptop

        1. If you are having trouble adding a point to the map, I would suggest opening the link on a computer (not a phone) and using Chrome rather than other browsers. Type the address in the search field, click “add to map” to add your point.

    1. Looks like the edit functionality is disabled on this map, maybe too many contributors? The link at the bottom of the article points to the editable version of the map, but Goggle automatically converts that to a viewer link (I’m logged into my google account), so this seems disabled by the Map service.

      1. If you or any reader has advice on how to add more bears, please let me know. I think the map’s creators are more technologically proficient than me, but the advice is probably welcome.



  3. The Bernal Heights teddy bears (and this website) have been featured in a local short film. 🙂

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