Vancouver Island’s Chief Medical Health Officer is warning people on Vancouver Island that the deadly death cap mushroom is blooming early. Dr. Richard Stanwick says that the heat wave in the province has provided the perfect conditions for the mushroom, known for being the most dangerous to kids and pets.
“It is probably the most toxic mushroom in the world,” Stanwick said. “It is responsible for most of the poisonings. It has probably established itself both here and on the Lower Mainland.”
“They are pretty well everywhere, so it is now at the point where we are asking the public to get informed on what species to avoid.”
The mushroom has already been popping up in the Capital Regional District, including being spotted in the Uplands and Cedar Hill neighbourhoods according to Island Health. The death cap typically grows under imported trees like beech, chestnut and English oak, but has also caught on to Garry oak trees.
Island Health has a step-by-step guide on how to spot the mushroom that has a white cap with a white veil underneath, which often looks a little shredded as the mushroom matures.
If a mushroom is spotted, safely remove it by wearing gloves, double-bagging the removed mushroom and then tossing it into a double-bagged garbage bag. Once bagged, toss the mushroom into the garbage, not the compost.
In 2016, a three-year-old boy died after he ate a death cap that his family foraged it in downtown Victoria. Parents that are concerned their child may have consumed one of the mushrooms should immediately contact poison control.
WATCH HERE: Deadly mushroom warning and air quality readings
“If a child does ingest a mushroom and you are concerned about it, the best thing to do is to call our B.C. Poison Control Centre and they will be able to provide you advice,” said Stanwick. “And certainly, if possible, if they find a child has eaten a mushroom from a group of mushrooms, they should dig a mushroom out and bring it with them when they describe it to the poison centre.”
Island Health has provided tips on how to stay safe while foraging for mushrooms:
- If you are uncertain or unsure — do not eat wild mushrooms.
- Do not pick wild mushrooms unless you are knowledgeable about local varieties of mushrooms or are foraging with a person who can accurately identify them.
- If you are new to British Columbia, mushrooms may look familiar to you but are not likely to be the same.
- Death cap mushrooms can be confused with some edible mushrooms, such as puffballs and paddy straw mushrooms.
- If you suspect you’ve consumed a poisonous mushroom, go to your nearest hospital, call the BC Drug and Poison Information Centre at 1-800-567-8911 or call 911. Keep a sample of the mushroom for testing.
Island Health has also provided a facts about death cap mushrooms:
- Death cap mushrooms are especially dangerous to toddlers and pets.
- Illness after eating death cap mushrooms is very serious: up to 30% of people who eat a death cap will die. Liver transplants are an often necessary life-saving procedure. Early treatment in hospital is essential.
- Gastrointestinal distress (nausea/vomiting) begins about 8 to 12 hours after ingestion. After up to 24 hours have passed, symptoms seem to disappear and people can feel fine for up to 72 hours. However, liver and kidney damage symptoms start 3 to 6 days after mushrooms are eaten.
- If you see death cap mushrooms, wear rubber gloves when removing them, wash your hands thoroughly, package them up with your regular garbage — do not compost or use the food recycle garbage bin — and remember to remove them before mowing the lawn to avoid local spread.
- Unless necessary, avoid lawn watering to conserve water and to suppress early fruiting of death caps.