Mushroom thieves have targeted the fungi in Mount Douglas Park despite municipal bylaws that ban activities that damage trees or taking things out of the parks.
Volunteers with the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society are once again spotting people harvesting mushrooms from trees and stumps in the damper parts of the park and Darrell Wick, president of the advocate group, has a number of concerns.
Despite the warnings that park-users are “not allowed to take anything out of the park” or damage the plants, it happens all the time, he said.
Wick noted he has caught more than one person with entire bags of harvested mushrooms. Some try to justify their actions by pointing out that picking mushrooms spreads the spores and more will grow back, or say that they didn’t know about the bylaw, but no matter the reason, it’s against Saanich bylaws, he said.
Wick added that removing the mushrooms also deprives everyone else from seeing the wild fungi, which is disappointing because “they’re beautiful.”
The District of Saanich website outlines the rules of proper park etiquette. Mount Douglas Park visitors are asked to be respectful of the fragile ecosystem, “take nothing but photographs, [and] leave nothing but footprints.”
Megan Catalano, communications manager for Saanich, emphasized that the district doesn’t encourage picking mushrooms in any of the municipal parks.
Picking mushrooms in the parks violates Saanich’s Parks Management and Control Bylaw which states that no person without authorized permission should “cut, break, injure, remove or in any way destroy or damage” plants, soil or playground equipment in parks or on beaches, Catalano explained.
The bylaw also states that no unauthorized person can remove or dig up matter from Saanich parks.
“It is different than fruit picking because fruit picking doesn’t injure the tree or plant whereas picking a lot of mushrooms can affect the long-term health and growth of the plant,” she said.
Wick also pointed out that an individual may feel that taking one or two mushrooms for themselves won’t make a difference, but if everyone shared that mentality and took something from the park, there’d be nothing left.
Not only is mushroom picking a bylaw violation, but it can also pose health risks. Island Health and the BC CDC issue annual warnings about the dangers of death cap mushrooms which “are troublesome because they look like other safe edible mushrooms,” but can be deadly, Catalano explained.
In 2016, a three-year-old Victoria toddler died after ingesting a death cap mushroom in downtown Victoria.
“We strongly encourage residents to not eat mushrooms that they can’t identify.”
For more information on death cap mushrooms, visit bccdc.ca.