Monday, February 18, 2008



Child rape suspect found in hotel

A man wanted in Virginia in the rape of a child was arrested at a Frederick hotel, federal officials said.

Members of the Greenbelt division of the U.S. Marshals Service Capital Area Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Andre Alexander Williams, 37, Friday morning at the Econo Lodge hotel.

Matt Burke, the supervisor and inspector of the Maryland division of the task force, said Mr. Williams apparently was visiting his girlfriend in Frederick. Mr. Williams was taken to the federal courthouse in Greenbelt to appear on drug charges, he said.

Mr. Williams had just finished serving a state sentence for drug trafficking when he was charged by authorities in Greene County, Va., with raping a child younger than 13.


Fire destroys apartment buildings

A row of three apartment buildings was destroyed by a fire yesterday afternoon.

No one was seriously hurt, but firefighters narrowly escaped from one three-story building before it collapsed.

The garden-style apartment buildings were vacant and were being renovated after a fire in July. The cause of yesterday’s blaze is under investigation.



Bears still nuisance for valley farmers

Despite longer hunting seasons and a record kill last year, bears in the Shenandoah Valley are damaging crops and livestock and scavenging for food.

Hunters killed 1,633 bears last year, primarily in Rockingham County, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. There also has been a sharp increase in nuisance reports through the years.

Problems come from a combination of a shortage of wild food and more people moving into bear territory.

In Highland County, Lee Blagg, who operates an 800-acre sheep and cattle farm, has gotten to know a rogue black bear.

“When he wakes up in the spring, he’ll be back,” said Mr. Blagg, who estimated that up to $20,000 worth of sheep were killed in his immediate area by the bear this past summer and fall. “The bear population has just seemed to explode.”

Al Bourgeois, a district wildlife biologist, is sympathetic to his plight.

“These farmers have it tough,” Mr. Bourgeois said. “They can’t stand to lose a lot.”

Under the state’s Bear Population Control Program, landowners can get permits to kill nuisance bears.

“There’s historically been a high concentration of bears around Shenandoah National Park, but they don’t stay in the park,” said David Kocka, a district wildlife biologist with the department.

In recent years, the game department expanded the archery season statewide, and allowed hunters to kill bears at the beginning of the muzzleloader season in early November, he said.

Bears primarily eat berries and acorns. Last year, because of a late frost in April that killed off flowering wild fruit, many bears, which are omnivores, had little to eat.

That may have turned the bear in Highland into a rogue.


Female eagle barges in on public garden

The Norfolk Botanical Garden now has more eagles than usual.

A female bald eagle arrived last week, challenging a pair of nesting bald eagles already living there. The pair were trying to incubate three eggs laid early this month.

Now a second adult and a juvenile also have been spotted.

Biologists aren’t sure exactly what is happening. But the confrontation seems to be a result of the dramatic recovery of the Chesapeake Bay’s bald eagle population in the past 30 years.

In 1977, Virginia had 33 nesting pairs of bald eagles. Last year, the number was 560 pairs.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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