Steamboat Springs Mushroom gathering permits went on sale Tuesday at the Hahn's Peak/Bears Ears District of the Medicine-Bow-Routt National Forest.
Permits are required for both commercial and personal gathering.
Native mushroom species thrive in areas that were recently burned. Thus, large quantities of mushrooms are growing in areas of the Routt National Forest that were blackened by wildfires last year.
Thousands of mushroom species grow in Colorado, but most in this area are morels -- small, dimpled, spongy mushrooms. The Forest Service is asking people to make sure they know what they are picking, because some species of mushrooms can be toxic, causing nausea and possible hallucinations.
"We want people to know what they are picking," said Punky Moore, visitor information specialist for the local Forest Service. "It is their responsibility to know which ones are the bad ones, because many can be mistaken for the good ones.
"If you're not sure, don't pick it. People should get all the information they can before they pick."
Morels are considered delicacies in many countries. They are growing now in disturbed areas where trees have fallen or in concentrated decaying foliage or in recently burned areas.
Personal-use permits cost $10 each and allow the picker to collect up to five gallons. Commercial permits range from $20 to $100, depending on the volume of mushrooms and the number of gathering days.
Non-commercial gatherers can purchase commercial permits if they are planning more than one day of gathering.
Permits are available at the Steamboat Springs Forest Service office at 925 Weiss Drive off of U.S. Highway 40. They can be picked up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays.
The Forest Service also has maps of the burned areas where mushrooms are most concentrated, Moore said.
To learn more about mushrooms, Yampatika will host a seminar at 9 a.m. Aug. 31. Rob Reinsvold, former president of the Mycological Society, will share his 25 years of experience of hunting, identifying and enjoying fungi in the wild.
Call Yampatika at 871-9151 for details.