Game and Fish responds to public concerns about Sublette County wolf cruelty case

Posted 4/11/24

Prior to Tuesday morning, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was tight-lipped about a Sublette County man’s alleged abusive treatment of a gray wolf after he intentionally hit it with a …

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Game and Fish responds to public concerns about Sublette County wolf cruelty case


Prior to Tuesday morning, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was tight-lipped about a Sublette County man’s alleged abusive treatment of a gray wolf after he intentionally hit it with a snowmobile.

However, possibly in response to growing public concerns and criticism, in the last two days that stance has changed.

On Tuesday the department released a statement to the public. Then on Wednesday afternoon, after the Tribune’s press deadline, Game and Fish released evidence from the department’s investigation into a Daniel, Wyoming resident, finally naming Cody Roberts as the man who took the injured wolf into a bar with it’s jaws taped shut with red duct tape to show it off before taking it out back of the bar and killing it. The department also released a video showing the wolf in a muzzle and outfitted with what appears to be a shock collar.

The report by game warden Adam Hymas reads: “On 3/4/24 ROBERTS agreed to meet with warden [Bubba] Haley and myself in Pinedale, which he did with a lawyer present,” the document states. “The violation for possession of a live wolf was explained to ROBERTS at that time.”

Roberts was fined $250, but did not face an investigation until the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office announced it was launching an investigation.

“Our office, along with the Sublette County Attorney’s Office, are working with Wyoming Game and Fish to gather evidence and information relevant to the case. As this is an active investigation, we will not be able to release any details at this time,” the office said in a statement first reported by WyoFile.

The story is developing quickly as international outrage descends on individuals and entities in Wyoming.

The department claimed last Thursday that statutes dictate that any “information regarding wolves taken in Wyoming is not a public record.”

They also stated that animal cruelty charges are not applicable to predatory animals, like wolves, and the amount of misdemeanor fines are set in state statute. The department stated that animal cruelty statutes don’t apply to predatory species including wolves (in the vast majority of the state), coyotes, red fox, stray cats, jackrabbits, porcupines, raccoons and striped skunk.

Their Thursday statement was short: “The Wyoming Game and Fish Department investigated and cited an individual who was found to be in possession of a live wolf. The individual was cited for a misdemeanor violation of Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulations, Chapter 10, Importation and Possession of Live Warm-Blooded Wildlife.”

For many folks, the explanation of statutes was insufficient and the department claims to be receiving “a considerable amount of phone calls, emails and social media messages involving the possession of a live wolf in Sublette County.” 

The department investigated this incident and cited a man reported by numerous publications to be Cody Roberts, who had allegedly taped the wolf’s mouth shut and dragged it into a bar to show it off while it was alive before dispatching the wolf later. Cowboy State Daily published a photo it had received of Roberts with the wolf — jaws taped shut with what appears to be red duct tape — prior to him killing the animal. Game and Fish had not revealed how the wolf had been killed as of Wednesday’s press deadline.

The incident was not received well by those in the department, including Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik.

“The actions and behaviors of the individual involved in this case are not reflective of Wyoming’s values for wildlife,” Nesvik said. “The actions that came to light in this case were disrespectful to wildlife. These actions were not in keeping with conservation principles or ethical behavior. This incident casts a shadow over our state’s proven track record in successfully and responsibly managing our gray wolf population.”

The department’s investigation indicated there were no other statutory or regulatory violations. However, they acknowledge “the significant concern and dismay expressed by many people from around the state and nation” concerning the incident.

Roberts, owner of C. Roberts Trucking in Daniel, paid a $250 fine for possession of live wildlife. He has not been charged with felony animal-cruelty, though many are calling for charges to be filed, including U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who Wednesday called for the prosecution of anyone abusing wildlife.

“Farmers and ranchers throughout Wyoming have been dealing with an uptick of wolves slaughtering their livestock, and I understand their frustrations with this serious problem. However, I am horrified at the pictures of a wolf being abused and paraded around town with its mouth taped shut,” she said in an email to the Tribune. “No animal deserves to be treated this way and those who torture any animal should be appropriately prosecuted for these crimes.”

Wyoming state law applies to the case and does not provide an exemption for wolves, according to Scott Edwards, who is general council for an animal rights group, Center for a Humane Economy.

A legal analysis by the general counsel for two national animal-welfare groups says that contrary to news reports, no legal exemption shields Roberts from felony charges and prosecution. Legal questions by officials about whether the state’s animal cruelty provisions would apply to the actions of Roberts, citing exemptions in the law for “predatory animals” and suggesting that the laws only apply to domestic animals, like cats and dogs. 

“Such a narrow reading of the law is not accurate. The law’s reach is not restricted only to domesticated animals. The plain language of the statute makes it clear that once he took possession of the animal, he would be compelled not to violate the states prohibition on animal cruelty,” Edwards wrote in a letter to Wayne Pacelle, president of the Washington, D.C.-based group, Animal Wellness Action.

According to Wyoming statute: A person commits felony cruelty to animals if the person commits cruelty to animals that results in the death or required euthanasia of the animal; or knowingly, and with intent to cause death or undue suffering, beats with cruelty, tortures, torments or mutilates an animal. Felony cruelty to animals is a felony punishable by permanent forfeiture of the animal or livestock animal; and imprisonment for not more than two years, a fine of not more than five thousand dollars ($5,000.00), or both. 

While the statutes do mention cock and dog fighting and other examples of domestic animal cruelty, it never excludes wolves or other wildlife in the statutes concerning animal cruelty in the state. The phrases “tortures” and “torments” contained in subsection are not defined anywhere in the statute. 

“Dictionary definitions of these phrases make clear that Roberts engaged in each of these prohibited acts when he taped the wolf’s mouth closed, brought it home for photographs, and then brought it to a bar where the animal was subjected to inhumane acts before killing it,” Edwards said in the letter.

The incident has been reported internationally and has gone viral on several social media sites. 

“This is not what sportsmen in Wyoming do. He should be charged for cruelty to animals. Shameful behavior. An embarrassment to Wyoming,” Alan Rivera wrote on a viral video shared to Facebook about the incident.

“Wyoming is a state where the wildlife laws support thrill-killing psychopaths,” posted Prairie Protection Colorado, an animal rights group.

A reply to the post by CJ Haley, of unknown residency, said, “I would love to give this man a one way ticket to meet Jesus and explain himself.”

Now it’s being reported Wyoming residents with the same name as the perp are receiving harassment and death threats. With headlines like “Hunter parades wounded wolf in a bar before killing it” appearing in large national news organization publications and countless posts on social media growing with each new tidbit of news leaking out, it’s clear this is not the last Game and Fish and Sublette County law enforcement officials will hear on the matter.