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Wyoming wolf incident generates outrage

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

On the last day of February, a Sublette County man was reported to have live captured a wolf in Wyoming’s predator zone and took the wolf into both his residence and a local bar in Daniel before killing the animal, according to original reporting by Emily Cohen of KHOL, who broke the story.

Cohen reported Cody Roberts of Daniel was cited by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) for illegally possessing a live wolf and paid a fine of $250.

Cowboy State Daily’s Mark Heinz reported the story a few days later, citing two anonymous sources “familiar with the incident” who alleged Roberts “ran the wolf down with a snowmobile on Feb. 29, disabling it.”

At this point the story went viral. 

After Cowboy State Daily published a photo of Roberts posing with the wolf with tape around its muzzle inside what appears to be a residence, the public outrage seemingly came from all over the world as more media outlets ran with the story, with most reporting based on the allegations in Cowboy State Daily’s article and not on original or confirmed sourcing.

Allegations versus facts

The public outrage is based on allegations from two anonymous sources Roberts reportedly ran down a wolf and generated widespread media use of terms such as tormented, tortured and even bludgeoned. 

How exactly the wolf was ran down hasn’t been established, but some animal rights activists asserted the wolf had been “run over” and was “grievously wounded.” 

For example, animal rights activist Wayne Pacelle and his Washington, D.C.- based Animal Wellness Action organization issued a press release headlined, “Wyoming resident who ran over wolf, tormented grievously wounded animal in front of audience at bar must be prosecuted under state anti-cruelty law.”

Pacelle also added a “crushing” component to the allegation, stating, “Running over and crushing an animal with a snowmobile, binding the battered and wounded animal’s mouth shut and deciding to further torment the creature in front of an audience rather than putting him out of his misery is the textbook definition of malicious cruelty.”

Activists with no personal knowledge of the incident further claimed the wolf was “run to exhaustion” and “tortured” by various people “for hours.” 

The known facts at this point are Roberts was cited and fined for illegally possessing a live wolf and he was photographed posing with a live wolf with its muzzle taped shut. Details beyond this have not been confirmed. 

There are indications law enforcement officials are further investigating the allegations against Roberts, but even this has not been confirmed.

Consequential ramifications

But, the ramifications of the allegations have already been consequential. 

Pacelle’s Animal Wellness Action called for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to institute an emergency listing of Wyoming wolves under the Endangered Species Act while pushing social media hashtags which misidentified the name of the accused.

The Humane Society of the U.S. claimed this incident “serves as a glaring reminder many wolves” throughout the region “experience similar brutalities” and urged its members to apply a pressure campaign to the Wyoming Office of Tourism to “demand changes to Wyoming’s draconian, backward laws.” 

Others advocated boycotting Wyoming, asserting views Wyomingites represent a culture of cruel killers and WGFD is engaged in a cover up, while some are trolling social media pages of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and various public officials or calling county and state government offices and the bar where Roberts reportedly took the wolf. 

Many calls for violence against the accused and his family members have been posted to social media, with one suggesting “the same cruelty, inhumanity and disregard as he treated the wolf, right down to be taken ‘out back’ and shot.” 

Roberts and his family members have been doxed, with phone numbers and home address widely posted online. Some of the vitriol involves the accused’s children.

Pacelle’s press release about the Roberts case included a statement which says, “A remorseless, cruel monster like this is a threat to other animals and a threat to people.” 

The monster label has been repeated by others, as well as social media references to Roberts being evil and subhuman, along with comparisons to a serial killer, serial rapist and child abuser.

Much of the rhetoric against Roberts resembles what researchers call dehumanization, in which people are singled out and treated as less than human and outside the scope of human morality and justice, so any harm which befalls them is therefore morally justified.

As the Conflict Information Consortium explains, “Psychologically, it is necessary to categorize one’s enemy as subhuman in order to legitimize increased violence or justify the violation of basic human rights.” 

In promoting an “enemy image” of an opponent, “They may come to view the opponent as an evil enemy, deficient in moral virtue or as a dangerous, warlike monster.”

In the wake of all of this, Gov. Mark Gordon has consulted with state legislators and members of the public and private sectors about developing a state action plan to review state wildlife and animal abuse laws, and an announcement about this action is expected soon.

Cat Urbigkit is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments to

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