RIGA (AFP) – Latvia’s armed forces took to Twitter this weekend to warn sneaky mushroom-pickers against venturing onto restricted training ranges where they run the risk of getting shot or even blown up while seeking the perfect fungi.
“Mushroomers! Intensive military exercises with live ammunition are taking place in the Adazi military zone,” tweeted Latvia’s National Armed Forces (NBS), referring to a training range just north of the capital Riga.
“We invite you to choose safer mushrooming sites,” the NBS added.
Subsequent tweets pointed out that trespassing on military ranges was both illegal and dangerous and could also wreak havoc with ongoing military exercises.
The Adazi base is home to more than 1,000 NATO troops from Albania, Italy, Canada, Poland, Slovenia and Spain as part of the alliance’s enhanced Forward Presence (eFP), designed to deter Russian aggression.
That number is in addition to local Latvian forces and a separate US presence.
The sprawling sandy ranges and pine forests at Adazi provide ideal mushroom habitats, making them a top attraction for Latvia’s veritable army of avid mushroomers that take to the woods in droves each fall.
Mushroom gathering is a national obsession in Latvia. After a disappointing start to the season, recent days have seen a sudden surge in fungi appearing in forests, along with a corresponding rise in the number of mushroom hunters.
Several times per year military and border guard helicopters are sent to rescue mushroomers who have become lost in the woods.
But it is not just disoriented mushroomers who risk interfering with drills at the base: on August 4, two Russians were sentenced to short prison terms for intentionally trespassing on a training range and disrupting NATO drills in 2015.