A recent article in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, Minnesota, included a map of Walter Palmer’s 890-acre hunting property, including street names and its location in relation to the rest of the state. Palmer, 55, is the Minnesota dentist who killed Cecil the lion outside Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. He went into hiding after the incident and has received numerous death threats.
Jennifer Bjorhus—an investigative reporter on the Star Tribune‘s watchdog and data team—wrote, “Where lion hunter is king,” which was published in print August 17 and online August 16 under the title “On his Minnesota land, lion hunter is tough on suspected poachers.” It focused on Palmer’s “zealous” defense of his hunting land.
The piece said Palmer “guarded his acreage and propery lines so fiercely he alienated and even frightened local hunters.”
Clay County Commissioner Jenny Mongeua, whose district includes Palmer’s acreage, was quoted as saying, “You don’t go close to it because he would report you. He has zero positive relations with any of the neighbors, which is very uncommon for this area.”
Bjorhus wrote of several alleged exchanges between Palmer and Jason Stetz—a local hunter and owner of Heart O’ Lakes Quality Meats in Pelican Rapids—who was reported as saying Palmer angrily confronted Stetz, his relatives, and his friends on multiple occasions.
In separate incidents, Palmer reportedly:
• Threatened to call the game warden when Stetz used binoculars to look at, what turned out to be, a plastic deer Stetz mistook for the real thing;
• Yelled at the hunters and accused them of trespassing;
• Kicked Stetz’ cousin out of a treestand.
Bjorhus wrote, “Stetz said Palmer had a handgun” during the treestand incident. Keith Stetz reportedly did not respond to messages seeking comment.
In the article, Stetz said Palmer invited neighbors to his land for a party in 2008, during which Palmer showed Stetz his trophy collection. Stetz said the collection might bother those not accustomed to hunting, but was “neater than hell” to him. Relations between the two men have reportedly improved in recent years and Stetz now butchers some of Palmer’s deer.
The article continued from the front page of the print version to page A9, where Bjorhus wrote that Palmer had not responded to multiple phone calls by the Star Tribune from the previous two weeks, including requests for comment on the article.
The information for the map was available as public record from the Clay County property records; the printed map was attributed to Jim Foster, also of the Star Tribune. The online version of the story does not include the map, as of August 20.
According to the article, Palmer and his wife had “not been staying at their Eden Prairie home or at their vacation home in Florida.” The article reported that Palmer’s dental practice “remains shuttered” at the time of its publication, but has since reopened. Palmer has not returned to work as of this writing.
The last lines of the article read:
“Some locals suspect Palmer and his wife may be on the secluded property now, keeping a low profile to avoid the harsh public reaction to Cecil’s killing. Stetz says he has no idea. All he knows is someone hired private security to watch the property.”
Bjorhus defended her decision to include the map when returning a phone call from Sporting Classics Daily requesting a comment.
“Locator maps are commonplace with stories that have to do with a particular location,” Bjorhus told SCD Editor Taylor Pardue. “We do them with everything.”
When asked if she was concerned over the possibility of legal ramificiations if someone used the map, found Palmer on his hunting land, and “something happened,” Bjohrus said, ”It’s public record … the information can be had anywhere. I can’t say that that really concerns me, no. It’s a very large piece of property.”
When asked if she felt the story led readers to assume Palmer was hiding on the property, Bjorhus said, ”No, I don’t think so. He’s a wealthy man. He could be anywhere, absolutely anywhere. We have absolutely no evidence that he is there.”
When asked if the spirit of the article led readers to believe that Palmer was there, along with the elimination of his home and vacation home as possible locations, Bjorhus said, “No, I don’t think it does point to that. The story really is about his behavior and kind of unusually zealous behavior with the other hunters. That is what the story is about.”
When asked if the story even warranted publication, Bjorhus said, ”Absolutely. I think it sheds light on the situation or I would never have done it.”
When asked how the article shed light on the incident regarding Cecil the lion’s killing, Bjorhus said, “His [Palmer’s] behavior is over the top, even by regular hunting standards here. I come from a hunting family myself, so … it’s just not foreign to me, and his behavior was unusual, and it reflects his kind of, you know, personality, and sheds light on his character. I thought it did so to the point that it was worth doing the story.”
When asked what reasonable actions Palmer could have taken to keep trespassers off his land, Bjorhus said, “Well I mean I think you have reasonable conversations with people. You don’t try to beat people. You know, you don’t try to beat hunters, and you have conversations. You usually try to stay on good terms with your neighbors, right?”
Editors’ note: The editors of Sporting Classics and Sporting Classics Daily would like to express our extreme aversion to and disappointment with the Star Tribune’s choice to publish a map of Walter Palmer’s property. While the investigation is ongoing, Palmer has yet to be charged with any crimes. He has, however, been the victim of vandalism at his Florida property, as well as the recipient of numerous death threats, including a call for his hanging by PETA. Enabling radicals to track his whereabouts—even passively—is morally reprehensible no matter the political or idealogical viewpoint. Though the access to Palmer’s property information can be legally obtained, it is ethically irresponsible to publish material that may lead to what is, in effect, a lynching.
We urge the Star Tribune to remain professional in its coverage of Cecil the lion’s death and the subsequent investigation of Walter Palmer.