Brainerd man gets 15 months in prison for poaching black bear on Red Lake Reservation

Brett Stimac pleaded guilty last September to killing the giant bear on the Red Lake Reservation in 2019.

Brett Stimac of Brainerd posted this photo of himself on social media after killing a giant black bear on the Red Lake Indian Reservation in 2019. He was sentenced in federal court Wednesday to 15 months in prison for poaching the bear. (Contributed photo)
We are part of The Trust Project.

ST. PAUL — A Brainerd, Minn., man will spend 15 months in prison after illegally killing a huge black bear on the Red Lake Reservation in 2019.

Brett Stimac, 41, was sentenced Wednesday, June 9, in federal court in St. Paul. He also was sentenced to a year of supervised release after his prison time and a $9,500 fine, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Stimac pleaded guilty in September to misdemeanor charges of wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land. Prosecutors said Stimac killed the bear, estimated at 700 pounds — nearly triple the average size of a Minnesota black bear — with a compound bow near the reservation’s garbage dump.

Stimac shot the bear Sept. 1, 2019, and returned to the dump the next day and posed for photographs with the carcass. He later shared the photographs on social media.

Because of the bear’s large size, Stimac was not able to move the bear from the reservation. Instead, he used a saw to cut off the bear’s head for a trophy — bringing the head to a taxidermist in Ironton, Minn., and leaving the rest of the carcass to spoil.


The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians does not permit those who are not band members to hunt bear, a clan animal, within the boundaries of the reservation, due to the bear’s spiritual significance to the band, prosecutors said. Stimac isn’t an enrolled member of the band.

A record search found Stimac has a long criminal history in Minnesota, including convictions for criminal damage to property (2014), felon in possession of a firearm (2011), receiving stolen property (2009), illegal transportation of big game (2008), second-degree felony assault with a dangerous weapon (2008), receiving stolen property (2000), and disorderly conduct (1999).

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
What to read next
Cases of fraud or alleged fraud have caused uncertainty and mistrust among some consumers in an industry that relies largely on the honesty of producers, processors and packagers to maintain the integrity of the industry.