DULUTH – A Brainerd man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to federal misdemeanor charges accusing him of illegally killing a 700-pound black bear while trespassing on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
According to the criminal complaint, Brett James Stimac, 40, shot the bear with a compound bow near a dumpster on the reservation on Sept. 1. The bear ran away, but when Stimac found it the next day, he sawed off the animal’s head and paws to keep as trophies, the complaint said.
Charges said Stimac couldn’t move the bear, so he first tried to take its hide. When that didn’t work, he cut off the bear’s head, paws and 71 pounds of meat, leaving behind the rest of the carcass on the reservation.
Stimac later posted a photo of himself with the bear on Facebook with the caption saying he “got it done last night with an absolute giant over 700 pounds.”
The image circulated among some online hunting groups, drawing outrage from some who condemned the poaching.
The Red Lake Band considers the bear a spiritual animal and does not permit nontribal members to hunt bears.
Stimac, who has a lengthy history of illegal hunting, sat stoically at his brief arraignment in U.S. District Court in Duluth. He is not allowed to possess a weapon or enter the Red Lake Indian Reservation, according to pretrial conditions set by U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo Brisbois.
If convicted of illegally taking, possessing and transporting wildlife in violation of tribal law, Stimac could face a year in prison and a $10,000 fine. Trespassing on Indian land to hunt could bring 90 days and a $5,000 fine, plus restitution for the animal.
Stimac is free on a $25,000 bond. A date has not been set for his next court appearance.