Brainerd resident Brett James Stimac pleaded not guilty Wednesday, Dec. 18, in U.S. District Court in Duluth to federal misdemeanor charges accusing him of illegally killing a 700-pound black bear while trespassing on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
Stimac, 40, entered his plea before Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois. His court hearing lasted 16 minutes, and he was advised of his rights and informed he would be appointed an assistant federal public defender to represent him.
Stimac faces misdemeanor charges of wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land.
According to the criminal complaint, on or about Sept. 1, Stimac willfully and knowingly entered the Red Lake Reservation in Minnesota for the purpose of hunting a bear. The Brainerd man, who is not an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, did not have permission to enter the reservation. The Red Lake Tribal Code prohibits non-Indians from entering the reservation “to take, buy, sell, transport or possess any protected wild animals of the Red Lake Indian Reservation,” the complaint stated.
Stimac shot the bear with a compound bow near a garbage bin on the reservation and the bear ran away. Stimac found the bear carcass the next day, but was unable to move it. He left the carcass where it was overnight. He posed with the bear’s carcass to take photographs he later shared on “Minnesota Bear Hunting” Facebook page with the caption: “Got it done lastnight [sic] with an absolute giant over 700 lbs,” the complaint stated.
Then on or about Sept. 3, Stimac returned to the reservation and attempted to remove the bear’s hide. When he was unable to do this, he sawed off the animal’s head and paws for purposes of measuring them, the complaint said. He left the reservation with the bear’s head and 71.2 pounds of bear meat. He left the remainder of the carcass and at least one bear paw in place.
Stimac took the bear’s head to Anderson’s Taxidermy in Ironton. Law enforcement seized the black bear’s skull Sept. 16. The meat was seized from the freezer at Stimac’s residence.
The Red Lake Band of Chippewa has seven principle clans: bear, turtle, bullhead, mink, eagle, marten and kingfisher. The Red Lake Band does not 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 to the band.
According to public court records, Stimac has a long criminal history of illegal hunting. Stimac, a convicted felon who cannot possess a firearm, has been convicted of hunting offenses including firearm violations, baiting deer, deer hunting without a license, fishing without a license, transporting illegal big game and spearing without a spearing license.
Outside of hunting offenses, he was convicted of receiving stolen property, theft, disorderly conduct, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon, fourth-degree property damage and traffic violations. Most of the offenses were in Crow Wing or Cass counties. Stimac has several previous burglary charges, but they were dismissed.
According to the court document, Stimac is free on a $25,000 bond.
If convicted, Stimac faces up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine for illegally taking, possessing and transporting wildlife in violation of tribal law, a federal misdemeanor charge. If convicted of trespassing on the reservation to hunt, he could face up to 90 days in jail and a $5,000 fine, plus restitution for the value of the bear.
Stimac’s case was reassigned to Judge Susan Richard Nelson and Magistrate Judge Leo I. Brisbois.