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Critterman’s Corner
By David Kleven

As a wildlife educator for the last 26 years, a part of my mission has been to encourage people to get out and explore nature.  This past summer, I was excited to see the down town Square filled with people milling about, though there was no apparent organized event taking place. Now granted, the downtown Square is not a state park or other wilderness area, but the square was filled with people enjoying the beauty of the outdoors in the heart of Denton.  Before long, I noticed almost everyone seemed to be looking at their phones. I even witnessed to a few pedestrian on pedestrian collisions. I heard shouts of excitement. I thought there must be something big going on, so a checked my own phone. Nothing stood out from any news service or social media. What was going on? My answer came the next day, when all over the media outlets there was news of a new App sweeping the nation – Pokémon Go. At first I was disappointed, but then I realized that this might be a bridge to get people outside.

As an educator, I have always embraced technology and pop culture. To do otherwise, one loses their credibility and becomes irrelevant. At some of my wildlife school assembly programs, I told student’s that there was a secret level of play. For them to access this hidden level of play, they would be required to go outside to one of the area parks. Once there, they were to put their phone into camera mode, and begin to walk. I told them they didn’t have to hold the phone up until they discovered creatures. The phone wouldn’t buzz to let you know that they were near something cool. Instead they would actually have to look around, using their eyes.  If they did that, they would actually see them, Real life “Pokémon”. To “capture” them, they would be required to take their phone out and take a picture. Once that was done they should put their phone back, into their pocket, and enjoy the nature surrounding them. My point being to remind the students to be in the moment.

Texas is home to the greatest diversity of wildlife in the United States. Myself and my family have been Texas Parks & Wildlife Department annual pass holders for decades. Weekends, long weekends and Spring Break may find us exploring a different park in Texas or even Oklahoma. From Canyon Country, Prairies & Plains, The Big Thicket, Hill County, Rio Grande Valley to the Coastal Shoreline, Texas has so many inspiring places to explore.

In Critterman’s Corner I will share how amazing our native wildlife is. I will also use this corner of the internet to dispel myths, share fun facts, and answer questions from readers.  Where is the best spot to see wildlife? How do you identify a venomous snake? How do I get rid of the crazy opossum under my deck? I will answer those and much more. Email Comments or questions to [email protected] with Critterman’s Corner in the subject line. In the meantime – get out into nature and explore!