North Westside residents being overrun by morel mushroom pickers

Pickers trespass in fire zone

They are still recovering from the devastation of the White Rock Lake Fire and now residents in an area between Monte Lake and Westside Road are dealing with a new stressor.

Mushroom foragers have been flocking to the area in recent weeks drawn by post-fire morels, often trespassing on private property.

“I know that the mushrooms are super-good this year. We’ve just been having a ton of problems with inconsiderate drivers and trespassers,” explains Alexandra Yacyshyn, who lives on her family farm in the area.

The family lost their home, farming equipment, barns, and almost the entirety of its forest of trees to the fire last August. Yacyshyn says they have witnessed a notable increase in non-locals through the area, and the family caught at least eight trespassers on the property in the last week.

She says one of the problems is that many of her neighbours haven’t been able to rebuild their fences yet.

“I feel so bad. We have, thankfully, fencing up in our area, but people are still disregarding that. And this is not just amateurs that are coming through. It’s also professional pickers that have all the gear,” she said some of them are driving vehicles with out-of-province license plates, so they might not be aware that they’re on private property.

Last week a group of pickers came onto their property and her dad had to ask them to leave.

“They ended up leaving our property and going onto our neighbour’s and she had to kick them off as well. And she’s been putting up no-trespassing signs. But I mean, they’re going through fenced-off area as well.”

On Saturday, a van-load of women drove up onto their property and they argued with her brother when he asked them to leave.

One of her concerns is that inexperienced foragers will trample tender new growth surfacing after the fire and interfere with nesting migratory birds.

Yacyshyn says they have contacted the RCMP and BC Conservation Officer Service and while they have promised to patrol, often the trespassers are gone by the time they arrive.

The rules laid out for foragers on the BC Ministry of Forests website make it clear pickers need to get permission to enter private property. It also lays out guidelines for sustainable harvesting and encourages pickers to tread carefully.

She’s asking mushroom hunters to show some compassion for people who have already gone through a lot.

“A lot of these places that have been affected that are private property, they don’t have fencing up yet. Just because something looks open doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s public land,” she adds.

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