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Man charged with killing trophy-sized bear out of season behind his home near Little Falls

17 June 2022

A central Minnesota man shot and killed a bear behind his home in the middle of the night, only to be charged nearly a year later with taking the trophy-sized animal out of season and other counts.

Michael J. Thielen, 42, was charged Thursday in Morrison County District Court with three gross misdemeanors: using lights while hunting, wanton waste of a wild animal and hunting out of season. He’s also charged with three misdemeanors: hunting without a license, using bait without a license and baiting bears.

Thielen was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court on July 11 in connection with killing the bear on July 28, 2021, in his backyard about 5 miles east of Little Falls on Hwy. 27.

In an interview Friday with the Star Tribune, Thielen said he twice asked the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help him with the black bear, explaining that it was a 500-pound nuisance that was killing the ducks and chickens on his property, and left him with $2,500 in various damage.

The bear in one instance came within 10 feet of his stepson, who was 12 years old at the time, Thielen said.

He said his girlfriend and her son wouldn’t go out after dark because “they weren’t dealing with it very good. … I was trying to protect my family. I don’t feel like I did anything wrong. If the DNR isn’t going to do anything, sometimes you have to take things into your own hands.”

Thielen agreed that he made a mistake by buying a license after shooting the bear and posting a photo of the animal on Facebook weeks later.

DNR spokesman Joe Albert said, “This type of behavior certainly isn’t common. Most people who harvest animals strive to do things the right way and in accordance with regulations that are in place to ensure future generations have the same opportunities that we do today.”

According to the criminal complaint:

The DNR received two anonymous tips in early September 2021 about Thielen shooting a bear out of season several weeks earlier. The second tip noted that Thielen had posted a photo of the bear on Facebook on Sept. 3, 16 days after he bought a resident’s surplus bear license.

On Sept. 6, Thielen told DNR conservation officers that he shot the bear and admitted killing the animal before bear hunting had begun in September.

He said his girlfriend awakened him about 1 a.m., he grabbed his rifle and shot the bear in the backyard, which was illuminated by a floodlight.

Thielen said “he had been seeing the bear for over a year, and it had become problematic,” the charges said. He acknowledged using bait but failing to follow the registration process.

He wrapped the bear in plastic, went to work and returned about 9:30 a.m. to find it covered in bees. He still managed to get 50 to 60 pounds of meat off the animal “before it became full of maggots.”

Thielen said he used a skid steer to hoist what was left of the bear into a dumpster, but first he placed the skull outside “to allow the insects to clean it.”

The DNR seized the skull and determined through the authoritative Boone & Crockett scoring system that the bear was considered to be a trophy.

In 2020, Brett James Stimac of Brainerd pled guilty to federal charges of misdemeanor wildlife trafficking and trespassing on Indian land after he illegally killed a 700-pound black bear while trespassing on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.

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