Hunt for virtual wildlife leads to real nature encounters

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Capital News Service
LANSING — If you want to see wildlife you go outside.
The same is true for the critters in Pokémon Go.
So while people chase the virtual wildlife in that popular new game, they’re getting a taste of real nature.
One group of Pokémon hunters even pooled their money to rent a boat to chase after the creatures on Lake Michigan, said Maia Turek, a recreation programmer with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

It’s the kind of enthusiasm that has state parks across Michigan seeing attendance increase as people hike on trails and through campgrounds, enjoying nature as they search for Pokémon, she said.
“I never realized how pretty Heritage Park was,” said Noah Downs, a Pokémon Go player from Farmington Hills, where the park is located. “It was actually the first time I had walked around the whole park. I really liked it actually.”
The game has him walking daily, Downs said. He’s added at least an extra mile per day of exercise while visiting local parks.
He’s hardly alone.  Managers say the game has given people another reason to visit their parks.
“Before the game came out, you only saw kids on the playground, or parents dropping them off, said Jacob Korczyk, a camp aide at Heritage Park. “Now there are kids actually going into the park and on the trails.”
Players of all ages tend to roam the trails in groups. Korczyk once saw a couple in their 70s playing the game as they strolled.
The craze has also come to state parks.
People drive and walk around Belle Isle State Park in Detroit, catching Pokémon and battling at the gyms, said Jacob Brown, the park supervisor.
Further inland, many people have bought recreation passports to pursue Pokémon in North Higgins Lake State Park near Grayling, Turek said.
The parks are taking advantage of the hype.
They are promoting the opportunity to catch Pokémon as one of the benefits offered by Michigan’s State Park Explorer Guide program, Turek said.
The Detroit Zoo has noticed a bump in visitors as well.
“The launch of the Pokémon GO app has generated quite an interest in the Detroit Zoo, which we’ve learned is a hotbed of Pokéstops,” said Jennie Miller, the communications manager for the Detroit Zoological Society.
Pokéstops are places that give players items to use in the game. They are located at places like park entrances, churches, historic places and public art pieces.
There are 47 Pokéstops and five gyms spread throughout the zoo.
The more people playing the game near each other, the more likely they are to find rare Pokémon. And all those players in the zoo have been attracting some rarer Pokémon. Pikachu shares many exhibits with the animals.
“It’s great to see people getting outside, being active and also appreciating the wildlife that surrounds them as they explore,” Miller said
Eamon Devlin writes for Great Lakes Echo.

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