(PINCKNEY ISLAND) The launch of Pokémon Go is having a significant impact in our region. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is reporting a significant spike in visitors to its refuges in the Lowcountry. The increase in visitors is not all positive, because it’s generating a spike in the number of lawbreakers on those lands.
Since the July launch of Pokemon Go, the search for game characters is bringing an average of 200 vehicles a day through the Pinckney Island Wildlife Refuge. Joel Vos, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service welcomes the increase, but says a lot of the gamers are breaking the rules. “They’ll be cited for trespassing. they’ll be cited for an other number of infractions. We’ve seen and increase of up to 150 contacts just at Pinckney Island alone and that includes everything from driving while using your cell phone, illegal parking, and a number of drug and alcohol related charges that have come out of this Pokemon Go explosion of use here in our refuges.” Vos said.
The popularity of Pinckney Island among Pokemon Go players is due to the fact the game generates a number of characters that can be captured there via smartphones. Jill Powers, a player from Beaufort, says the wildlife refuge is a real jackpot for those dedicated to catching them all. “They’re everywhere. There’s anything that you want. There’s Picachu’s, everything that’s kind of like the coveted Pokemon, is all around here.” Powers said. She also says she’s witnessed people breaking the rules. ” “You’ll see that there’s people who are here for Pokemon who are going 15 miles and hour driving back up and down, so they’re playing Pokemon while they’re driving. ”
Vos says it’s not just the rules of the road, people are coming in after hours and leaving a lot of litter, more than the facility is used to dealing with. While the increased number of visitors is welcome, the goal is to get everyone to play by the rules and to respect the regulations of the refuge. “We’re very excited to find a way to engage with those that are enjoying the fame and doing it properly, while working to correct the behavior of people that aren’t necessarily following the rules, laws, and regulations that we have.” said Vos.