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Federal judge sentences Brainerd man in bear poaching case

The sentence includes 15 months in prison and a $9,500 fine for wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land after removing the head of a 700-pound black bear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

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Brett Stimac poses with a bear he shot in September 2019 in a photo widely circulated on social media. (Facebook / Cuyuna Lakes Community Watch)
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A Brainerd man was sentenced in federal court Wednesday, June 9, for wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land after removing the head of a 700-pound black bear he had shot 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, the United States Attorney’s Office District of Minnesota stated in a news release.

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According to court documents, 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 government contended that Stimac, using a compound bow, shot and killed a large American black bear near the reservation’s garbage dump.

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 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.

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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.

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.

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