Wyoming vs. Wolf

Wyoming vs. Wolf

Daniel, Wyoming wolf torture: run over by a snowmobile, brought to a bar and shot out back. Is this considered animal abuse in the state of Wyoming?


The gray wolf (Canis lupus) has had a unique history in Wyoming. Once a plentiful species, by the early 1900s, the gray wolf population was faced with a threat to their survival. When settlers moved out west in the 1800s, they colonized Wyoming with their European beliefs about Wolves fully intact. For thousands of years, the wolf was represented in mythology, religion and popular culture as a man-eating monster, Demon and threat to human success and survival. This is in part, due to the impact wolves had, and still have, on livestock. Ranchers can lose thousands of dollars worth of livestock from one single wolf. This threat to livelihood has helped to portray wolves as evil and a pest. Wolves also displayed this representation in stories such as,“The Big Bad Wolf,” fostering a belief in European culture that these animals were better off extirpated. 


By 1834, the first permanent settlement in Wyoming was established. At that time, wolves were abundant across North America, with an estimated population of 350,000 to 400,000 prior to colonization. However, as settlers moved west, wolves became targets for extermination. Primarily due to the impact that these animals had livestock and farmer’s livelihood. This became such an issue that the federal government launched a campaign, pressured by wealthy livestock owners, to completely kill off wolves. Wolf trapping and carcass poisoning began, with some parts of the U.S providing financial rewards for a dead wolf. By 1930, the wolf population in the Northern Rockies was gone. In 1973, the Endangered Species Act was passed with gray wolves being one of the first species to be listed. In 1987, a gray wolf recovery plan was created, leading to 41 wolves being reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park from 1995-1997.  The reintroduction was successful, and the population flourished to an estimated 328 wolves in Wyoming by 2011.  


On April 25, 2017, gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List and population management was left to the state of Wyoming. Wyoming’s wolf management plan allowed unregulated wolf hunting in approximately 85% of the state. In these parts, gray wolves are known as “predators,” and there are no rules regarding a wolf limit, permitting, season or how they are killed.  This is the jurisdiction where Cody Roberts encountered the wolf in late February.  


Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park are the only “protected zones” where hunting wolves is illegal. The rest of the state (about 15%) is defined as a “Trophy Zone” where residents must obtain a wolf hunting license issued by Wyoming Game and Fish, and the quotas are limited within each hunt unit.Unfortunately, because of this law, wolves are not protected in 85% of the state known as “predator zones”. 


Note: The original unedited version was taken from Wyoming Game and Fish. 


This is why on February 29, when Cody Roberts chased down a gray wolf to the point of exhaustion, captured it, tortured it, tormented it and eventually shot it, he was only issued a $250 dollar fine. 


This event has led to an uproar in media attention across the state, nation and globe. People are appalled by Wyoming’s wolf management laws and confused about the lack of punishment for what many consider animal abuse. There is current uncertainty from the state on whether or not a gray wolf in the predator zone is afforded the same protections as domestic animals via animal abuse laws.. If seen as an animal abuse case, Roberts could face a felony charge, resulting in up to 2 years in jail and a $5,000 charge.


This uproar was showcased at the Wyoming Game and Fish Public Hearing on April 17 where over 500 people attended virtually(the maximum allowed by Zoom) and in person to show their opposition for what happened in Daniel, WY. People from all over the United States and even the world gave public comments advocating for the gray wolf that was killed by Roberts. Many advocated for stronger laws to keep these wolves from suffering abuse and stricter punishments for abusers. Hunters, psychologists, veterinarians, entomologists, conservationists and everyday citizens showed up to issue these heartfelt statements.


One attendee drove over 1,800 miles to attend the meeting in person and use her allotted two minutes to speak. Others showed their support from different states via Zoom. One attendee, Dr. Lauren Lindner, a psychologist from Kern County, California offered a $10,000 donation to Wyoming Game and Fish for a proper punishment to be put in place for this injustice. Stating that the “condoning of this kind of violence will haunt us all and will have far reaching effects.” She added the fact that “we don’t view Cody Robert’s behavior as sociopathic, we really just view it as the norm, that is a really serious problem. This is a systemic problem.” 


Board certified pathologist, Donal O’ Toole , also spoke about this systemic issue. He shared a story about his former coworker running over coyotes with a snowmobile for fun – a common pastime for this person. “I think we have a cultural problem. If you can’t eat it, it’s okay to hunt it down and behave in a cruel manner.” He then quoted Oscar Wilde saying, “Traditional fox hunting was the unspeakable in pursuit of the inedible. I ask you to deal with the unspeakable.”


Others pleaded that this not be a representation of hunters in Wyoming. Jim Laybourn said, “I am a 3rd generation hunter. I tell you, not one of these stories is about chasing an animal down with a motor vehicle until exhaustion, about traumatizing an animal… it was about being a sportsman, it was about being a good shot. Many hunters are worried that this incident will affect their hunting rights and their ability to hunt in the future. I am worried about something worse, I am worried that if there is no change on this issue, Wyoming hunters will forever be associated with the likes of the wolf torturer in Daniel. And I refuse to be associated with him.” It is a disgrace to Wyoming and has to end.” Laybourn then stated that he wouldn’t give a dime to Wyoming Game and Fish until “the department poses real reform on wolf torture.”


Some threatened less funding to Wyoming Game and Fish, while others showed concern for what this event might do to tourism; they stated that they already know of people canceling their trips to Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone, where the tourism dollars have a multimillion dollar impact for the state. Mike Blissett, a small business owner from Cody said, “We all know that tourism is a big industry in this state. My photography business in Cody depends on a strong tourism season to thrive. Hashtags like “Ban Wyoming” are very real. And people let their voices be heard in more ways than what’s on Facebook: they also speak with their wallets. They will go elsewhere.”


All the people who gave public comments last week believe that Wyoming needs to make a change when it comes to gray wolf policy and punishments. “As I was driving here from Florence, Montana, I noticed signs along the road warning that littering is a $750 dollar offense. It makes me think that the state has its priorities wrong when you levy a fee of $250 for possession and transportation of live warm blooded wildlife in what appears to be unclear policy against cruelty to wildlife like wolves.”(Jessica Cara). 


The Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance believes that Wyoming Game and Fish needs to support a bill that does not allow the use of any type of vehicle strike for predator hunting. Governor Mark Gordon, in response to this incident, stated, “Our office has received considerable communication about the actions of an individual involving a wolf that occurred earlier this winter in Sublette County. “I want to make my position on this absolutely clear. Cruelty to any wildlife is absolutely unacceptable. This is not the way anyone should treat any animal. I am outraged by this incident, just like thousands of Wyoming ranchers, farmers, sportsmen and sportswomen, and others around the state.” We would love to see him follow up this message with action for reform. We also believe that there should be an amendment to SF0026 – Animal abuse statutes – Wyoming Legislature clearly defining that any abuse to animals, including predators, would be considered animal abuse and be subject to a felony charge.


To this day, wolves still have a significant impact on rancher’s livelihood. That should not be unseen and protections should always be in place to properly compensate any livestock losses. However, despite their bad wrap, wolves play a significant role in the ecosystem. Any animal abuse to them should be treated as such with proper punishments in place. We are facing a cultural issue if killing and torturing wolves has no punishment. We have an oppurtunity to make an impact on the future of wolves in Wyoming. To give a voice to the voiceless.


If you would like to get involved in protecting Wyoming’s gray wolves and addressing issues like the abuse in Daniel, WY, contact the officials listed below. If you’re concerned about Wyoming boycotts impacting your local economy, please contact the office of tourism. 

  • Brian Nesvik, Director of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department: Brian.Nesvik@wyo.gov
  • Mark Gordon, Wyoming’s Governor: governor@wyo.gov
  • Wyoming Office of Tourism: 307-777-7777

Gray Wolves are a representation of true wilderness in Wyoming.  The wolf abuse in Daniel, WY has been a catalyst to promote the change Wyoming needs. Here is Wyoming’s opportunity to accept the call. Will you help ensure they answer?



Phone: (307) 733-9417
685 S. Cache St. PO Box 2728
Jackson, Wyoming 83001