July 30, 2015 11:50 AM

Dr. Walter J. Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who admitted to killing Cecil the lion during a hunting trip to Zimbabwe, has written a long letter to his patients apologizing for the “inconvenience” that the incident has caused.

“To my valued patients,” he begins the letter. “As you may have already heard, I have been in the news over the last few days for reasons that have nothing to do with my profession or the care I provide for you.

“I want you to know of this situation and my involvement. In addition to spending time with my family, one of my passions outside dentistry is hunting. I’ve been a life-long hunter since I was a child growing up in North Dakota.

“I don’t often talk about hunting with my patients because it can be a divisive and emotionally charged topic. I understand and respect that not everyone shares the same views on hunting.”

Palmer, 55, then echoed earlier sentiments he’d made in a previous statement, saying that he had no idea that the lion he killed “was a known, local favorite, was collared and part of a study until the end of the hunt.”

“I deeply regret that my pursuit of an activity I love and practice responsibly and legally resulted in the taking of this lion,” he writes. “That was never my intention.”

He concluded the letter by saying that he is sorry for the disruption his pastime has led to.

Protesters have gathered outside Palmer’s Bloomington, Minnesota, practice for the past few days, even creating a memorial to the beloved lion made up of stuffed animals.

Handmade signs cover the doors of the closed dental office, one reading, “WE ARE CECIL,” another “ROT IN HELL,” according to The New York Times.

“The media interest in this matter – along with a substantial number of comments and calls from people who are angered by this situation and by the practice of hunting in general – has disrupted our business and our ability to see our patients,” Palmer writes.

“For that disruption, I apologize profoundly for this inconvenience and promise you that we will do our best to resume normal operations as soon as possible.”

But Palmer has at least one ally: Ted Nugent, who called the whole story a “lie” on his Facebook page.

“It was a wild lion from a ‘park’ where hunting is legal & ESSENTIAL beyond the park borders,” he writes. “All animals reproduce every year & would run out of room/food to live w/o hunting. I will write a full piece on this joke asap. God are people stupid.”

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