Minnesota Man Who Beheaded Black Bear on Native American Land Jailed

A Minnesota man who beheaded a 700-pound black bear while trespassing on Native American land—and then posted photos of the carcass online—has been jailed.

Brett James Stimac, 41, from Brainerd, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, after the incident at the Red Lake reservation in northwestern Minnesota on September 1, 2019. He has also been fined $9,500.

According to court documents, Stimac, who is not an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, wilfully, knowingly and without authorization or permission entered the reservation that evening for the purposes of hunting a bear.

Prosecutors said Stimac had used a compound bow to shoot and kill a large American black bear close to the reservation's garbage dump.

The following day, Stimac returned and located the bloody carcass of the bear. He posed for photographs with the carcass and later shared the images on social media.

Stimac was unable to move the bear from the reservation because of its size. Instead, he used a saw to remove the bear's head for a trophy.

According to the court documents, Stimac brought the bear's head to a taxidermist in Ironton and left the remainder of the carcass to rot.

"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," the Minnesota District Attorney's Office said in a statement.

Stimac pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Native American land in September 2020.

His lawyer, Brian Toder, has claimed that the animal was already dead when Stimac found it.

"That doesn't make him not guilty of violating the charges, but the facts are considerably different than when this was first brought to everyone's attention," Toder told the Associated Press last September.

"My client came upon a dead bear, is what happened. It had been dead for a while, actually. He did make up a story about how he shot the bear, but he never did. It was just a story."

Stimac was handed the prison sentence at a federal court by Judge Susan Richard Nelson.

The case against him followed an investigation 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.

black bear killed
Black bear feeding on mountain ash in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, seen in 2016. A Minnesota man has been sent to prison for removing the head of a 700-pound black bear on a Native American reservation. Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images