In response, the ACT Government has started a large ad campaign warning people not to pick and consume mushrooms. The ad is on my desktop at CIT, was sent in emails to staff and students ANU, and I have seen signs all over the place as well.
Some of the ACT Government signage (via John Dow and Riot-Act)
I am happy about this ad campaign; it could save lives. Wild mushrooms should never be picked at eaten. I would never pick and consume a wild mushroom, and thought I would share why.
They are really really really hard to identify
Identifying fungi requires many steps before you can work out what species it is. The steps usually include: description of the cap, gills and stem; colour of spores; odour; habitat description and where it is growing. Many species look almost identical, and it can take years of training to understand and look for the subtle differences. I certainly do not have this training, I just have a field book that I follow. I would only ever trust the advice of a seasoned expert.
The Death Cap is not alone; there are many poisonous ones
Whilst the Death Cap is commonly found and confused for being an edible mushroom, many mushrooms are poisonous. Cortinarius species and Agaricus species have both poisonous, 'magic' and edible species, and many of them can look almost the same. The common mushrooms you buy at the supermarket may be easily confused with other species when picking from the wild.
And the same with magic mushrooms; they can be confused with poisonous ones. Don't give into peer pressure. If you are worried, don't risk it.
Field mushrooms -Agaricus campestris (via Wikipedia) can be confused with other toxic species.
New fungus is being discovered all the time
I know a local Mycologist has discovered more fungus in the last couple of years than in his whole career. This is mainly related to the wet weather; spores have laid dormant for a long time and are only now appearing in the wet. There is a lot we don't know about fungus, both current and new species. We don't know if the mushroom we see is one that we could eat, if it is poisonous, magic or it may even be a new species.
Please don't risk your or others lives, and don't consume wild mushrooms.