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Prominent South Carolina Attorney Fined for Trapping and Killing Hawks

A “pillar of his community” has been fined for trapping and killing hawks in South Carolina. 

Charles H. Williams, an Orangeburg attorney and University of South Carolina trustee, has been charged with a $75,000 fine, probation, banned from hunting for a year, and 50 hours of community service at an avian conservation center. His crime? Allowing employees of an Orangeburg plantation to trap and kill a protected migratory hawk species.

The Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service sent officers after receiving a tip to the Willcreek Plantation in Orangeburg County, where Williams is the registered agent. There, officers found a red-tailed, or Cooper’s, hawks trapped in a net. After further investigation, with photos and stakeouts as proof, the officers concluded that employees of the plantation trapped and killed 31 of these birds, protected by the federal Migratory Bird Act, over the span of the year.

Williams’ attorney described him as a “pillar of the community” and he apologized to the court, saying:

“I’m ashamed I did it…I’m embarrassed for my family. I’m embarrassed for my friends.”

But he killed these hawks in the name of hunting. The hawks prey on bobwhite quail, especially pen-raised quails released for hunting purposes. Human hunters in the areas will shoot hawks out of the sky that are hunting the game quail. Essentially, the hunter and the bird of prey are after the same quarry.

This is not the first case in South Carolina of people shooting hawks in order to protect poultry or quails set free for hunting purposes. But it is a practice that officials say is “bad science.”

Wildlife officials hope that Williams’ punishment, though considered minimal, will be a lesson for others in the area.

“The good news out of this is the changing of attitude with more visibility, attention and enforcement. I do believe the tide is starting to shift,” said Jim Elliott, director of the Center for Birds of Prey in Awendaw.

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Prominent South Carolina Attorney Fined for Trapping and Killing Hawks