Minnesota hunter denies any wrongdoing in death of Cecil the lion

Well-known dentist and big game trophy hunter Walter Palmer is under fire from Zimbabwean government authorities after he reportedly killed a popular lion during an archery hunt in Africa.

Palmer is suspected of killing a lion dubbed “Cecil,” which conservation groups say was well known among researchers and park officials in Zimbabwe. Cecil — a 13 year-old black mane lion — reportedly had a tracking collar placed on his neck by researchers at Oxford University in England, but in a statement Palmer denies he knew the lion was protected.

“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,” Palmer said July 28. “I relied on the expertise of my local professional guides to ensure a legal hunt.”

Reaction to the death has been swift and brutal, with online commenters calling for Palmers execution and others trying to shut down his dental business in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“I hope Walter Palmer loses his home, his practice and his money,” wrote Ozzy Osborne wife Sharon on Twitter. “He has already lost his soul.”

Some reports allege Palmer’s professional hunting guides lured the popular lion out of Hwange National Park before Palmer arrowed the lion with a crossbow. Local conservation groups say the lion had to be tracked for 40 hours before he was recovered.

This is not the first time Palmer has been in hot water over a trophy hunt, The Associated Press says. Palmer reported killed a Wisconsin black bear in 2006 out of zone and made false statement to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service about the kill. He was fined $3,000 and served a year’s probation.

Conservation officials in Zimbabwe say Cecil was poached and have arrested two professional hunters who were allegedly involved in the hunt. Officials say the land owner where the hunt occurred was not allocated a lion for Palmer’s hunt.

“All persons implicated in this case are due to appear in court facing poaching charges,” Zimbabwe hunting officials say.

Palmer reportedly paid up to $55,000 for the hunt and regrets his kill caused so much anger.

“I have not been contacted by authorities in Zimbabwe or in the U.S. about this situation, but will assist them in any inquiries they may have,” Palmer said. “I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion.”