Courtland man admits to baiting bears

Published 5:24 am Wednesday, July 27, 2011

From Staff Reports

SUFFOLK—A Courtland man on Monday admitted to baiting bears for hunting purposes and was fined $1,500.

Thomas Neal Marks entered the plea in Suffolk Circuit Court. Also admitting to the scheme was Randy Butler of Virginia Beach.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries charged Marks and Butler. Butler owned Virginia Guide Services and Marks worked for the company, according to court records.

The men baited black bears for hunters on a 3,187-acre wooded tract they leased near the Suffolk landfill and U.S. 58, across the highway from the Dismal Swamp, according to court records. They used dog food, crabs, deer carcasses and doughnuts to attract the animals to the property.

Butler pleaded guilty to two counts of instigating others to trespass and three counts of hunting over bait to take a wild animal. He will not have to pay a $6,500 fine if he pays $7,500 restitution to the state Game Protection Fund and a fine of $6,200 to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, according to court records.

Butler will be prohibited from taking hunters on bear hunts for three years; he also lost his hunting privileges for the same time period.

Marks pleaded guilty to three counts of hunting over bait, according to court records.

In May, Marks entered an Alford plea in Southampton County Circuit Court for illegally possessing the skin of a canebrake rattlesnake. By entering the plea, he stipulated that if evidence were presented in court, he would be found guilty.

Charges against Marks were filed when conservation officers with the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries discovered the snakeskin while executing a search warrant from another investigation.

Marks claimed he ran over the rattlesnake while driving a piece of farm equipment and kept it.

The canebrake has been on the state’s endangered species list since 1993 and is found in areas of Suffolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Newport News, Hampton and Yorktown.