Chilmark man who sought missing bones gets a whale of a surprise

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A Chilmark homeowner found himself in hot water after he asked for the return of these whale bones he found on the beach in a letter to the editor. — Photo courtesy Chilmark Police

Larry Miller got swallowed by the law of unintended consequences when he sent a Letter to the Editor, published Jan. 21 in The Times.

Mr. Miller is a Cambridge resident with a house in Chilmark. His letter was brief and to the point.

“Would whoever took the large whale bones from our property in Chilmark off the Quansoo Road near Post Oak and Georgiana’s Way please return them to the driveway of 7 Georgiana’s Way in Chilmark?”

Chilmark police wanted to solve the same mystery. The bones were stored behind the station house. Mr. Miller’s letter provided the clue they needed.

A passerby walking a dog along Quansoo Road saw the bones in the woods while walking past the property, and unsure of what they were doing there, called Chilmark police. The police consulted with Brett Stearns, Wampanoag Natural Resources department director, who confirmed that it is against the law to take whale bones. The police contacted Environmental Police Lieutenant Matt Bass.

Lieut. Bass called the letter writer, Mr. Miller, and informed him that the bones had not been stolen. The police had the bones.

Mr. Miller told Lieut. Bass that he was unsure what kind of bones they were when he found them on the beach, and put the odorous remains in the woods.

Lieut. Bass told him that they were in fact whale bones, and it is unlawful under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act to, with some exceptions, possess whale bones.

Asked how Mr. Miller reacted to that news, Lieut. Bass said, “Genuine surprise and apologetic — he had no idea. Then I told him the police had the bones; no one stole them.”

Lieut. Bass said the end result was an educational phone call. Case closed.