ST. PAUL, Minn. – A Brainerd, Minnesota, man was sentenced in federal court today for wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land after removing the head of a 700-pound black bear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Brett James Stimac, 41, was sentenced by Judge Susan Richard Nelson to 15 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and a $9,500 fine.
According to court documents, on the evening of September 1, 2019, Stimac, who is not an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, willfully, knowingly and without authorization or permission, entered the Red Lake Indian Reservation for the purposes of hunting a bear. The Government contends that Stimac, using a compound bow, shot and killed a large American black bear near the Reservation’s garbage dump.
According to court documents, on September 2, 2019, Stimac returned to the dump the following day and located the bloody carcass of the bear. Stimac posed for photographs with the bear’s carcass and later shared the photographs on social media. Because of the bear’s large size, Stimac was unable to move the bear from the Reservation. Instead, Stimac used a saw to remove the bear’s head for a trophy. Stimac brought the bear’s head to a taxidermist in Ironton, Minnesota, and left the remainder of the carcass to spoil.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians does not permit non-Indians to hunt bear, one of seven clan animals of the Band, within the boundaries of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, due to the bear’s cultural and spiritual importance to the Band.
This case was 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.
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Gina L. Allery and Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily A. Polachek prosecuted the case.