Over 200 pounds of illegal mushrooms were seized from poachers by rangers in Crater Lake National Park over the Fourth of July weekend, according to the Oregonian. But it’s not the mushrooms themselves that are illegal, just the way they were harvested.
Morel mushrooms are a hot commodity among both chefs and mushroom hunters, the former for their taste, the latter for the thrill of the find. The mushrooms will only grow when the conditions are just right, and seem to really explode in forest regions recovering from wildfires. Thanks to their sought after nature, the honeycomb-looking fungi can fetch as much as $20-a-pound at retail, making them a popular cash crop, but also inspiring some less-than-savory harvesting tactics.
After 20,000 acres of the Crater Lake Forest burned in 2015, the area became a hotspot for ‘shroom poachers. Large scale collecting of mushrooms outside of designated areas in any national forest is prohibited, as they are a vital part of the natural ecosystem. Crater Lake National Park contains no sanctioned mushroom harvesting areas, but that hasn’t stopped enterprising mushroom hunters from trying.
In conjunction with a number of local law enforcement agencies, the park rangers confiscated 234 pounds of illicit mushrooms from dozens of suspects, laying them out for the press like a cartel bust. According to KTVZ, the estimated street value of the poached mushrooms was $7,944. The mushrooms’ value to the recovering forest, though, was probably much more.
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