The 41-year-old Brainerd man who prosecutors say killed a large black bear in September 2019 on the Red Lake Indian Reservation was convicted of two misdemeanors for the offense.
United States Attorney Erica H. MacDonald announced Thursday, Sept. 17, in a news release that Brett James Stimac pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land after removing the head of a 700-pound black bear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Stimac, who was charged with the misdemeanor Dec. 6, 2019, entered his guilty plea Thursday before Judge Susan Richard Nelson in U.S. District Court in St. Paul.
According to the defendant’s guilty plea and documents filed in court, on the night of Sept. 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 release stated.
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. The government contends the Brainerd man used a compound bow to shoot and kill a large American black bear near the reservation’s garbage dump.
The following day, Stimac returned to the garbage dump and located the bloody carcass of the bear. He posed for photographs with the bear’s carcass and later shared the photographs on social media. He later shared the photos on “Minnesota Bear Hunting” Facebook page with the caption: “Got it done lastnight [sic] with an absolute giant over 700 lbs,” the complaint stated.
Because of the bear’s large size, Stimac was unable to move the bear from the reservation. Instead, he used a saw to remove the bear’s head for a trophy. Stimac brought the bear’s head to a taxidermist in Ironton and left the remainder of the carcass to spoil. 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 Indians 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.
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.
According to public court records, Stimac has a long criminal history of illegal hunting. Stimac, who was convicted of a felony and cannot possess a firearm, has also 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.