Saanich residents concerned over illegal mushroom picking at Mt. Douglas Park
SAANICH -- Advocates for Mount Douglas Park say a handful of people are pillaging mushrooms and damaging the ecosystem.
The president of Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society says he’s noticed the park becoming busier during the pandemic and has seen people picking mushrooms.
"Someone picked them all and deprived everyone else of that privilege of seeing it," said Darrell Wick, president of the society.
Picking mushrooms or damaging trees, shrubs or any plants in any way is not allowed at Saanich parks, according to the municipality.
Wick says not only are people removing the beautiful mushrooms, but they are also damaging the ecosystems when they walk off the marked trails.
"Help us preserve the park for all our benefit... we all have to cooperate and it keeps the park a beautiful place," he said.
A forest ecologist on Vancouver Island says people are foraging for wild foods in B.C. more than before.
"It is always important to understand where it is you’re foraging and regulations," said ecologist Andy MacKinnon.
He adds that picking mushrooms in Saanich Parks, like Mount Douglas Park, is depriving other organisms of their food.
"Those mushrooms are important food for all sorts of organisms that live in the forest, so if some person comes along and takes the mushrooms away those mushrooms are also important food for small mammals and also invertebrates," he said.
There are locations such as provincial Crown land that people can pick mushrooms, but MacKinnon says that you must do so responsibly and take steps to avoid damaging the environment.
He warns that Saanich is known to grow the death cap mushroom, which is the most poisonous mushroom in the world.
"In fact, if you want to see death cap mushrooms probably the best place to go to in Canada is Oak Bay," he said.
Wick is asking people not to pick mushrooms at Mount Douglas Park and hopes education will stop people from leaving the trails.
"They’re depriving everyone else of that same enjoyment of seeing them. They’re so beautiful," he said.
Anyone who is caught picking mushrooms in a Saanich park will face a fine of more than $100, under the parks management and control bylaw.