Mushroom collecting impacted by sudden oak death
A Northern California mushroom hunter blames sudden oak death for a dramatic decline in wild golden chanterelles, according to a feature story in the East Bay Express, but the article points to myriad pressures on landscapes that used to produce the edible fungi.
Mushroom enthusiast Todd Spanier told writer Alistair Bland that 10 years ago he could harvest nearly 200 pounds of golden chanterelles from a handful of patches.
"Now, I can go to the same canyons, do all the same hikes to all the same patches, and collect maybe five pounds of chanterelles," Spanier was quoted.
Among other things, Spanier blames sudden oak death.
"In places the forest looks like a checkerboard of dead trees," Spanier said.
The story outlines the other landscape impacts that may be partly responsible for the decline in wild mushrooms:
- Grazing cattle, which gather in the shade of oaks and trample seasonal mushroom patches
- Wild pigs, which tear up the soil beneath oaks rooting for acorns
- Suburban sprawl and development
The tanoak — not actually an oak but still important for mushrooms — have meanwhile been decimated by sudden oak death in its native range along the central and north coasts of California. UC Berkeley SOD expert Matteo Garbelotto believes the tanoaks could disappear from some areas altogether, the article said.
Mushroom hunting is illegal in state and national parks and a permit is required for mushroom hunting in national forests. Bland said, however, that many avid collectors regularly break such laws. Spanier suggested there's a primal drive for collecting the rare delicacies.
"Wild mushrooms are our last connection to our ancestral hunting and gathering roots, and cultivated mushrooms can't replace that," he is quoted in the story. "If and when we lose the California live oak and tanoak, it's going to be tragedy in so many ways. It'll be a culinary loss, a cultural loss, and an ecological and environmental loss."
Wild golden chanterelle mushrooms. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)