Walter Palmer is facing a new round of criticism after nearly decade-old evidence emerged that the dentist who killed Cecil the Lion also poached a bear then offered $20,000 to cover it up.
The Minnesota dentist has been in hiding since allegations surfaced that he killed Cecil, the well-known and beloved lion living in Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park. Palmer is accused of paying safari guide Theo Bronkhorst $50,000 to help him kill the lion last month.
Now, another troubling hunting incident from Palmer’s past is surfacing, showing what appears to be a pattern of poaching and then using his wealth to cover it up.
ABC News’ 20/20 dug up records from Wisconsin, where in 2006 the dentist was hunting a black bear when he shot an animal in a restricted area. Palmer had a permit to hunt black bear in one county, but ended up shooting a bear 40 miles outside that zone.
When Walter Palmer tried to take the animal across state lines to Minnesota, federal authorities took on the case and found that the dentist dished out big money to keep guides quiet.
“He was lying to us. He was offering to pay, it turns out, about $20,000 to keep the others who were in the hunt, to have them lie, so that’s a fairly aggressive cover-up,” U.S. Attorney John Vaudreuil told 20/20.
But investigators found out about the illegal kill, and Palmer pleaded guilty to felony charges of making false statements to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials. He received only a $2,938 fine and no jail time.
For his part, Walter Palmer has denied any wrongdoing in killing Cecil the Lion.
“I had no idea that the lion I took was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt. I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt,” he said in a statement.
“Again, I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”
The new reports come as Palmer is coming under increasing criticism. Animal rights groups have taken on Cecil the Lion’s case, calling on the United States to extradite the dentist to face charges.
On Friday, a group of activists held signs on an overpass of Interstate 35W in Minneapolis calling on U.S. officials to act quickly.
“Let’s not allow this man with a history of illegal hunting get away again,” Animal Rights Coalition Executive Director Dallas Rising told the Sun Current. “He must be held accountable for his actions.”
Rising is hoping that Palmer’s case can serve a bigger purpose as well, helping more people to learn about the issue of hunting endangered or protected animals for sport.
“Walter Palmer is the face of trophy hunters now,” Rising said. “We have a chance here to make a difference.”
[Image via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources]