Laura Lundquist

(Missoula Current) After a Wyoming man ran a wolf down and tortured it before shooting it, more groups are speaking out against such cruelty.

On Tuesday, more than 60 conservation groups sent letters to the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, asking them to prohibit the use of motorized vehicles to pursue and kill wildlife on federal lands.

The letters said the agencies “must act because Wyoming and Idaho will not. When one Wyoming state lawmaker in 2019 proposed state legislation to ban the use of snowmobiles to kill or injure predatory animals, the bill did not even receive a hearing.”

“Running down wildlife with vehicles is only one of many hunting practices authorized by state wildlife management agencies that have no place on our federal public lands. That said, prohibiting this egregious practice would be a good start towards improving management of federal public lands for wolves and other wildlife,” the letters said.

The Center for Biological Diversity led the effort, which included groups such as Trap Free Montana Public Lands, Endangered Species Coalition, Sierra Club, WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project.

The letters were prompted by a photo taken Feb. 29 of a Wyoming man smiling while holding a young wolf with its muzzle taped tightly shut. Subsequent stories published a month later reported that the man, allegedly Cody Roberts, had chased the yearling female with his snowmobile and ran it over. The wolf survived, so Roberts reportedly took it home to torment it and then took it to a Sublette County bar to show it off before shooting it out behind the bar.

Wildlife advocates reacted quickly, condemning the incident, especially after they learned Roberts was fined only $250 for keeping a live animal. As public disapproval grew, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon issued a statement three weeks ago condemning Roberts’ actions as cruel, according to the Cowboy State Daily.

Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik joined the governor in condemning the incident, saying “it’s really casting a shadow over a really strong track record of wolf management in (Wyoming).” However, Wyoming Game and Fish hasn’t moved to make any changes to its regulations that classify wolves as vermin in 80% of the state, the “predator zone,” which allows them to be shot on sight without a license and without bag limits.

Predator Defense, one of the signatories on the letters, also called for a boycott of Wyoming until Wyoming Game and Fish changes their wolf regulations to discourage such abuse.

“The state of Wyoming bears responsibility for the Cody Roberts incident. Their policies made it possible. Perversely, they are on record saying they value wildlife, that its protection is of utmost importance, that they have the "gold standard" of wildlife management. In reality, there are no protections for wolves in 85% of the state. They tell people they can kill wolves and coyotes on sight and by any means,” Brooks Fahy, Predator Defense executive director, wrote in a post Monday.

(Public domain photo)
(Public domain photo)

The Cheyenne Post reported yesterday that the Wyoming Office of Tourism has gone silent since the wolf-abuse story broke. After several requests, the reporter got only an email from the Tourism Office communications manager saying, “What happened is not reflective of the values of the State of Wyoming. As the travel and tourism industry, wildlife is a primary reason why people come to Wyoming, and its protection and preservation are of utmost importance to us.”

It’s not just wildlife advocates that are speaking out. On Tuesday, the Boone and Crockett Club, America’s preeminent sportsmen’s organization, also issued a statement calling for a change in Wyoming’s management and labelling Roberts’ handling of the wolf “inhumane.”

“The alleged events cannot and should not be considered hunting or wildlife management. Respect for wildlife is at the heart of what we do as hunters and conservationists, and it’s clear that respect was absent from this situation. The Club has long supported professional wildlife management by state fish and wildlife agencies—including the ethical, regulated hunting of game species—as the most effective way to ensure sustainable populations of wildlife. When we have these laws and regulations in place, it builds value for wildlife and those who violate the laws can be held accountable for their actions. Until wolves are managed within this system throughout their range, we will continue to have conflicts and loss of ethical behavior,” Tony Schoonen, Boone and Crockett Club CEO, said in a statement.

On April 16, the president and president-elect of The Wildlife Society—along with 23 past presidents— sent a letter to Gov. Gordon condemning Roberts’ actions and calling for new laws to outlaw the pursuit of wolves with snow machines or other vehicles.

“The Wildlife Society supports responsible human use of wildlife where such use is an appropriate human activity,” said TWS President Bob Lanka, a retired Wyoming Game and Fish biologist in a release. “But this wasn’t hunting—it was intentional inhumane disabling, compounded by unnecessary suffering and delayed killing of wildlife, which has no place in our system of wildlife management.”

On April 17, the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission spent two hours listening to dozens of people rail against Roberts’ behavior and the subsequent lack of action on the part of the state, according to the Oil City News. More would have commented, but the commission had set a two-hour limit on comments.

Many acknowledge that Roberts isn’t the first or only person to torment or run a wolf down. Social media photos show numerous incidents of wolves caught in traps being tormented by people or dogs. It’s just that Roberts was the one who had his story go viral.
Such actions have prompted 10 organizations to file a complaint in Missoula federal district court against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Interior over the Service’s decision in February not to protect the gray wolf in the Western U.S. under the Endangered Species Act.

Contact reporter Laura Lundquist at