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Hundreds flock to BC backwoods to collect mushrooms

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – The recent deaths of two mushroom pickers in BC highlights an industry that draws hundreds of people into BC’s dense forests every year.

While money can be made, mushroom picking isn’t for everyone.

Pickers in BC are primarily looking for pine mushrooms, which are exported to Japan, and the chanterelle variety, which are used domestically in gourmet restaurants and produce stores.

The fungus is harvested in remote areas of Pemberton, the Bulkley Valley, the Naas Valley and the Kootenays.

Paul Kroeger of the Vancouver Mycological Society points out pickers are on their own to navigate the forest and find shelter. They’re not employed by the mushroom buying companies, but are paid in cash for every pound picked. Kroeger believes the going rate for both mushrooms is around $5 a pound.

He says the most experienced pickers will know how to read the landscape to identify the type and age of forests that will produce the most mushrooms.

“It is getting tougher now. People tend to have to go further and further away from urban areas. There are a number of people attracted to the money that is available but don’t have the experience living and working in the bush,” he notes.

Hardcore commercial pickers will have already harvested in parts of Alaska, and spend the fall concentrating their efforts in the Naas Valley.

“Even experienced people at this time of year can get into trouble because the days are getting shorter and you can easily get caught up hunting for mushrooms and lose track of the time.”

He says a lot of pickers are recreational, going out to harvest for a few days, enough to pay for their camping holiday.

Devlin Sabo died about a week after he and a friend got lost mushroom picking along the Skeena River. His body was found earlier this week.

Kyung IL Chun, 71, was found dead by search and rescue personnel northwest of Nakusp. The coroner says the Burnaby man died of natural causes while mushroom picking.