Real-life Pokémon at Lake Tahoe |

Real-life Pokémon at Lake Tahoe

Jim Hemig
Tribune Guest Columnist

All I hear about these days is that new smartphone Pokémon game. It’s all the rage with the young and the young at heart. The global, GPS-powered game is so popular that their Internet servers can’t keep up with demand.

If you haven’t heard about the game, well, you must live under a rock. 

“I caught a Weedle,” my youngest son said over dinner with cellphone in hand.

The point of this game is to find and “catch” an elusive set of nature-inspired creatures. A Weedle is basically a caterpillar. 

Once caught, you collect a list of these creatures on your smartphone to share with friends. 

Although I can appreciate the resulting outcome of this game — people getting outside and trying to find these rare 151 creatures — there’s actually a bigger world out there that has thousands of amazing animals and plants.

It’s called the Tahoe Basin.

And one group dedicated to finding and understanding wildlife and natural treasures in our environment is Tahoe Institute for Natural Science (TINS).

TINS is a nonprofit organization that connects the young and young at heart with the wonders of our beautiful Lake Tahoe and Truckee Sierra region. They provide day camps for kids, nature walks for all ages, festivals and wildlife research.

TINS hosts fun contests to discover and learn about our local wildlife. Last year, the goal was to see and identify as many bird species as possible.

On the TINS website you could create a list of the bird species you had identified and keep a running tally. Last year’s winner found 222 different real life birds — more bird species than there are Pokémon in that viral game.

This year the contest centers on wildflowers. The game is in motion now, and people all over the region are trying to locate as many flower species as possible. Each species of wildflower they find can be logged on the website to share with their friends and fellow participants.

But instead of staring at small, brightly lit screens in their hands, the folks participating in these games are exploring outdoors and learning about our local environment.

With over 1,000 plant species and over 300 different birds in our Tahoe Sierra region to find, the search is on. TINS is the group that helps locals and visitors to learn about and appreciate our natural wonders.

TINS is about fun and education. Want to know how you can join in? Check out the TINS website at Or you can join the TINS team out at Squaw Valley Friday, Sept. 9, for the Piranga event. Piranga is the combination of a company picnic-style competition during the day and a local music “battle of the bands” competition and chicken wing “battle of the chefs” competition event in the evening.

Piranga is a fundraiser that supports the TINS mission of educating our kids and community about the wonders of the Tahoe Basin. If you’d like to know more, call 775-298-0060 for more information.

Jim Hemig is a Tahoe Institute for Natural Science board member and founding partner of Business Opportunities Brokers, affiliated with Dickson Realty, based in Truckee.

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