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DGIF Conservation Police Efforts Net Clapper Rail Poachers on the Eastern Shore

On January 11, 2019, Virginia Conservation Police Officer Tony Pennino, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Officer Darin Dick, attended Federal Court in Salisbury, MD to testify against two suspects they had apprehended in September for grossly exceeding their daily bag limit of Clapper Rails in Accomack County. Mr. Howard Whealton, of Hampton, Virginia, who was not actively hunting on the day in question, but was operating the boat while his brother shot, pleaded guilty to aid and abet to take over the daily limit and was fined $500. Daniel Whealton, of Chincoteague, Virginia, pleaded guilty to exceeding his daily bag limit of Clapper Rail by 59 birds and was fined $1,500; given 3 years of supervised probation; his privilege to hunt was revoked for 3 years; and he was required to forfeit the shotgun he used to commit these heinous wildlife violations.

Sergeant Garvis, who is the Conservation Police Sergeant for the Eastern Shore of Virginia, mentioned the officers were told about these violations by a concerned citizen. When the officers arrived at the location of the reported hunting activity, they located the two brothers who were actively hunting. After observing the brothers for a short period, the officers made contact with them and conducted a check of their bag limit and hunting licenses. During the officers questioning of the hunters, Officer Dick located a plastic bushel basket in an adjacent marsh that contained 74 clapper rails.

According to Sergeant Garvis, the ‘over the limit’ case is the largest ‘over the limit’ case that has been made by natural resource law enforcement officers on the Eastern Shore in the past 25 years. He went on to say, “These suspects are not hunters; they are simply selfish individuals who robbed the sportsmen and women of the Commonwealth of this wonderful game bird.”

The Clapper Rail is a medium sized, chicken like marsh bird with a compact body, short tail and strong legs. These birds live in saltmarshes with extensive vegetation, which they use as refuges, especially at high tide. They live most of their lives on the ground and rarely fly.


Please report all wildlife crime to 800-237-5712 or

  • January 30, 2019