(KMSP) - Before Cecil the lion, there was this unnamed Wisconsin black bear. Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer let his guides know he wasn't interested in any bear, but the largest they could find. He paid his guides more than $2,500, but was allegedly willing to pay so much more if they would lie about where the kill went down.
They're pictures he never wanted anyone to see – Palmer and a 550-pound black bear he killed while bow hunting in Wisconsin 9 years ago. Palmer along with 10 hunters, and dogs, tracked the injured bear for three hours, needing three arrows to kill the animal. Palmer had a hunting permit. Just one problem -- it was for a different zone. He killed the bear in Price County, bear management Zone A, but his permit was for Zone A1, 70 miles away in Washburn County.
According to a 75-page investigative report Fox 9 obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, there was "a conspiracy by Palmer, the guides, and hunting partners involved to cover up the violation."
When Fish and Wildlife agents interviewed Palmer at his Eden Prairie home, he blamed his guides for any mistake, even scolding the federal agents, telling them, "it was rude for the officers to scare his wife and to show up at somebody's home." When told he may have violated federal law, the dentist said he "refused to be threatened." Federal prosecutors handled the case because the bear was taken across state lines.
Soon enough, the entire hunting party broke their silence about the cover-up. The guide, who already tore up a $1,800 check Palmer gave him, told investigators:
"Palmer offered me $20,000 or 'name my price' to lie to any wildlife officer investigating the case, by stating that Palmer never knew that anything was illegal with his bear.”
"I am confident that Palmer knew the bear was illegally shot and killed,” he added.
The entire episode, foreshadows what would happen 9 years later in the hunt for Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe, Palmer hunting in a prohibited area, and blaming his guides for any mistake.
Palmer told the federal agents they went to a couple of bars after killing the bear to show the animal off, but he made a point of telling investigators he didn't drink, that he's a recovering alcoholic and is sober. Palmer pled guilty in 2008 to making false statements to federal agents, a felony, and paid a $3,000 fine.