By Linda Cicoira — Two brothers were cited earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Salisbury, Md., for charges related to “grossly” exceeding their daily bag limit of clapper rail birds near Chincoteague. The incidents occurred in September 2018.
The defendants were Howard Lee Whealton, 66, of Burton Street in Hampton, Va., and Daniel E. Whealton, 75, of Beebe Drive on Chincoteague.
“These suspects are not hunters,” said Sgt. Steve Garvis, of the Virginia Conservation Police. “They are simply selfish individuals who robbed the sportsmen and women of the commonwealth of this wonderful game bird … This over the limit case is the largest … that has been made by natural resource law enforcement officers on the Eastern Shore in the past 25 years.”
Howard Whealton was operating the boat while his brother shot the birds. “He picked up the harvested rail birds from the water and assisted in the hunt during the observation period,” according to court documents. Howard Whealton pleaded guilty to aid and abet to take over the daily limit and was fined $500.
“The birds that had been harvested that morning were in an orange oyster basket” that the Whealtons “concealed under Cockle Creek Bridge near Route 175,” Officer D. Dick wrote on the violation notice. “Upon retrieving the basket and examining its contents, I discovered the basket to contain 74 clapper rail.”
Daniel Whealton pleaded guilty to exceeding his daily bag limit by 59 birds and was fined $1,500. His privilege to hunt was revoked for three years and he was put on supervised probation for three years. He was required to forfeit the shotgun he used to commit the violations.
Initially, both men were also charged with two counts of illegally transporting the chicken-like marsh birds. The fowl live in salt marshes with extensive vegetation they use as refuges, especially at high tide. They live most of their lives on the ground and rarely fly.
The case was heard Jan. 19. It was filed with the U.S. District Court in Baltimore Dec. 15, 2018. The incidents occurred Sept. 10, 2018. Magistrate Judge C. Bruce Anderson heard the cases. The crimes are considered petty offenses.