Brett James Stimac, 41, of Brainerd, has pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land, after removing the head of a 700-pound black bear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation and posting photos on social media.
Stimac, who was charged with the misdemeanors late last year, entered a guilty plea Sept. 17 before U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in St. Paul, U.S. Attorney Erica H. MacDonald said in a news release.
According to court records, on the evening of Sept. 1, 2019, Stimac (who is not an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band) went bear hunting on the Red Lake Indian Reservation without authorization or permission, using a compound bow to kill a large black bear near the reservation’s garbage dump.
Stimac returned to the dump the next day, located the bloody carcass of the bear, posed for photographs with the carcass, and later shared the photographs on social media.
Because of the bear’s large size, he was not able to move the bear from the reservation. Instead, he used a saw to cut off the bear’s head for a trophy -- bringing the head to a taxidermist in Ironton, Minn., and leaving the rest of the carcass to spoil.
The Red Lake Band doesn’t permit non-Indians to hunt bear, a clan animal, within the boundaries of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, due to the bear’s spiritual importance.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Red Lake Department of Public Safety, the Red Lake Department of Natural Resources, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with assistance from the Beltrami County Attorney’s Office.