In Wyoming, tormenting a wolf is not a big deal

By Wendy Keefover

It’s legal in Wyoming to chase coyotes and run over them with snowmobiles, but recently, a man used his snowmobile to run down a wolf until it was disabled. Then he taped the wolf’s mouth shut and paraded the animal around a local bar, taking photos to commemorate the event. Finally, he killed the wolf.

According to news reports, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department fined the man $250. His only crime: possession of a live wild animal. The more we learn, the worse this disturbing story gets. Most recently, one news outlet released video footage from the state game department showing the muzzled wolf splayed out on the bar floor.

The single upside to this incident is that it has brought scrutiny to the state of Wyoming’s bureaucratic indifference to wolves and other wildlife.

We now know that the responsible management agency can’t effectively punish one of the worst acts of cruelty ever exposed in the state. But is that any wonder when we consider that the state funds ineffectual predator-control programs that kill wolves and other wild animals indiscriminately?

This failure stands out starkly when compared to neighboring Colorado, now hosting reintroduced wolves. Although Colorado Parks and Wildlife reported recent wildlife-rancher conflicts, two state agencies, which held many meetings with the public before wolves came back to the state, are already working with those ranchers to prevent and mitigate losses and to provide generous compensation funds. 

The new Born to be Wild specialty license plate has already generated more than $60,000 toward Colorado Department of Wildlife’s nonlethal-conflict prevention fund for wolves. If a wolf, bear or mountain lion causes a livestock loss, the producer is eligible for compensation, as in a case in early April, where wildlife staffers reported that wolves had killed two calves.

Most states have limits on “manner of take,” defined as what methods are permitted to kill wildlife. But in what Wyoming calls its “predator zone” that’s a whopping 85% of the state where wolves, coyotes, red foxes, raccoons, porcupines, jack rabbits and stray cats can be killed using any method.

Methods include hounding, baiting, neck snares, leg-hold traps, shooting wildlife from aircraft and M-44 “cyanide bombs,” courtesy of the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services.

This is all usually undertaken to protect sheep and cattle and grow mule-deer herds for hunters. But conservation biologists find otherwise.

We know that livestock losses attributable to wolves and other native carnivores are rare. Using government data, the Humane Society of the United State found that losses to cattle and sheep caused by wolves, cougars and grizzly bears amounted to less than 1% of those domestic animal inventories in every state containing those wildlife species.

Recent reports have indicated that the Sublette County Sheriff’s office has opened an investigation into the killing of the wolf, and we hope officials will move forward with new charges.

Meanwhile, “wildlife advocates in Wyoming, energized by the wolf torture allegations, plan to push for policy reform,” reports the news outlet Wyofile. In Wyoming now, it is legal and routine to pursue coyotes by running them down with snowmobiles. The “sport” even has a name: “Chasin’ fur.”

The plight of wolves in Wyoming, along with those in neighboring states Montana and Idaho where similar practices are allowed, highlights the need for increased protections for these animals. On April 8, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was sued by several wildlife organizations to restore protections for wolves in the Northern Rockies.

In the meantime, a case as shocking as this must never recur. At the least, Wyoming lawmakers need to eliminate its predator zone and strengthen animal cruelty laws. In Colorado, wild animal or not, such an incident would be classified as “aggravated cruelty to animals.”

That is the decent thing to do for animals, and when we take into account the links between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence, we should see it as essential for a civil society as well.

Wendy Keefover is a contributor to Writers on the Range, writersontherange.org, an independent nonprofit dedicated to spurring conversation about Western issues. She works for the Humane Society of the United States as senior strategist for native carnivore protection.

This column was published in the following newspapers:

04/15/2024 Vail Daily Vail CO
04/16/2024 Grand Junction Daily Sentinel Grand Junction CO
04/16/2024 Moscow-Pullmand Daily News Moscow-Pullman ID
04/16/2024 Montrose Daily Press Montrose CO
04/19/2024 Laramie Boomerang Laramie WY
04/19/2024 Durango Herald Durango CO
04/17/2024 Delta County Independent Delta CO
04/19/2024 Green RIver Star Green River WY
04/19/2024 Pagosa Springs Sun Pagosa Springs CO
04/18/2024 Pinedale Roundup Pinedale WY
04/18/2024 Denver Post Denver CO
04/18/2024 Aspen Daily News Aspen CO
04/18/2024 Jackson Hole News & Guide Jackson Hole WY
04/18/2024 Alamosa Valley Courier Alamosa CO
04/18/2024 Moab Times Independent Moab UT
04/20/2024 Wyoming Tribune Eagle Cheyenne WY
04/20/2024 Marinscope community newspapers Marin County CA
04/18/2024 Durango Telegraph Durango CO
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Clint McKnight
1 month ago

Thank you, Wendy, for shining a bright public light on this ugliest of incidents. It’s hard to imagine a more revealing indictment of Wyoming’s immoral inability to manage a national public asset such as wolves.

Pastured Lamb
1 month ago

In my business, the predators are technology companies. AI, social media in particular. Why can’t I tape their mouths shut and shoot them? And if I cannot… why do ranchers feel they should be immune from the natural realities of this beast we call capitalism? There are predators in nature, predators in business. Most of us do not get compensated when the law protects the predators rather than our own individual business interests.

See also: former timber counties in Oregon that keep begging for extra money to make up for lost timber receipts — from mills and logging operations that ceased operating or being profitable decades and decades ago. They still think the Federal government should pay for their county’s roads and libraries.

Why?

The level of entitlement is astounding to me. When the Internet ate up most of my industry, thousands of us were left with pathetic incomes. Our choices are to cope, suck it up and accept low pay, or migrate to another industry. I keep wondering what makes certain Americans think they are owed their certain industry, lifestyle, and paycheck when the rest of us know we are at the whim of nature and of market forces.

(No, I’m not blaming rural Americans. I am a rural American!)

Dear Some Ranchers: wolves are an important part of the ecosystem. Live with ’em or find a new job. Dear Some Loggers and Mill workers (including my brother): most of your industry wound up in Canada and Japan; don’t blame the spotted owl. What makes you so special that you deserve coddling?

Courtney Vail
1 month ago

Humankind’s depravity towards other life seems to know no bounds. Wildlife and humans alike would be best served if we followed the words of humanitarian Albert Schweitzer. “The thinking (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another.”

Pamela Williams
1 month ago

I agree with the author. I also think that there may be an overlooked nuance, which is that almost half of Wyoming is federal land that all American taxpayers support. I am fully in favor of eliminating predator zones, reforming animal abuse laws and penalties, and prohibiting the chase/maiming/killing of any animal by vehicle. The secretive Wy Game and Fish will not release the location of the snowmobile strike on this young wolf, but our federal land managers have a role to play as stewards of the land on behalf of all of us co-owners. If the State of Wyoming won’t do the right thing, then our federal land managers better step up. For the vast majority of us, there is nothing controversial about enacting these reforms.

Jeanne Rasmussen
1 month ago

The world is looking at this travesty. They are expressing concern about Wyoming being an inhumane state. When one man causes such cruelty and exploits the wolf, torturing it for hours in a bar, , we can only imagine what goes on in the predator zone, 85% of the state, where people never notice. Yes, reform is necessary. Great op-ed Wendy.

deb melle
1 month ago

Wyoming, lest we forget that in 1998 a gay man was beaten, tortured and left to die . . . and this, running down a wolf with a snowmobile, which is considered a sport, is a surprise? What kind of people live here?

Sandy Noffsinger
1 month ago
Reply to  deb melle

These actions were barbaric!! One has to wonder why this behavior is allowed. Because WY G&F and the politicians allow it!!!

Bill gordon
1 month ago

The Wyoming Legislature cannot and will not legislate cruelty to non game animals and predators because in order to do so they will have to end steel leg hold traps. This legislature works at the foot of the beef and wool/lamb producers who simply will NOT allow any rule changes regarding trapping. So while allowing the cruelty and horror of the antiquated game called trapping to continue unabated, how does legislation get written concerning all the other unimaginable cruel acts humans seem so set on committing?
Snares and steel leg hold trapping is the 800 lb gorilla in the room concerning trapping reform as well as cruelty protection for all animals, wild and domestic.
This Wyoming legislature WILL NOT pass useful, meaningful statutes to protect every species of wildlife from being abused, terrorized and tortured while they are backed by livestock producers would prefer every predator simply be made extinct on the range and the mountains as they did a hundred years ago.
The key words here are “This legislature”. We the voters need to find and support new candidates who will join the 21st century and develop a house and senate of people who don’t kiss the ring of big beef and lamb producers..

Yes, It's Legal To Run Down Wolves and Coyotes With Snowmobiles In Wyoming - Yellowstonian
1 month ago

[…] “This is the worst thing I have ever seen as a wildlife advocate in my life and I have been doing this for 30 years,” says Wendy Keefover, senior strategist for carnivore protection with the Humane Society of the United States of the Roberts incident. “I would say my current response to what he allegedly did is one of shock. We’ve known people were running coyotes over with snowmobiles, but the chain of events and the duration of the cruelty he inflicted on the wolf has shaken me to my core. It’s so atrocious and hard to fathom that somebody would do this, and then be able to get away with it because leaders in the state make it allowable.” Also, read the essay Keefover wrote for Writers on the Range. […]

Yes, It’s Legal To Run Down Wolves and Coyotes With Snowmobiles In Wyoming | Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting Blog
1 month ago

[…] “This is the worst thing I have ever seen as a wildlife advocate in my life and I have been doing this for 30 years,” says Wendy Keefover, senior strategist for carnivore protection with the Humane Society of the United States of the Roberts incident. “I would say my current response to what he allegedly did is one of shock. We’ve known people were running coyotes over with snowmobiles, but the chain of events and the duration of the cruelty he inflicted on the wolf has shaken me to my core. It’s so atrocious and hard to fathom that somebody would do this, and then be able to get away with it because leaders in the state make it allowable.” Also, read the essay Keefover wrote for Writers on the Range. […]

John Trentalange, PhD
1 month ago

The man needs to be doing a decade in prison. Otherwise, there are going to be a lot of wealthy indiviiduals who think this is very cool and $259 is like asking the ordinary person to pay $10 for a fine of killing an innocent precious animal.

Geoff
1 month ago

A bullet in the head would be a far more appropriate punishment.

Steve Butterfield
1 month ago

Thank you Wendy, Absolutely disgusting that Wildlife management in Wyoming is not taken out of their hands.
This is truly sick mentality, what next when bored of torturing animals, school kids !!!
Watching and sharing from New Zealand 🇳🇿

Jill
1 month ago

********* I ACTUALLY SPOKE WITH GOV. OF WYOMINGS OFFICE THIS MORNING. LET HIS ASSISTANT ( too upset to get her name) KNOW THAT I WANT A RESPONSE TO MY E MAIL RE THE WHEREABOUTS OF BABYGIRL WOLFS BODY AND THEYD BE WISE TO FIND IT, AUTOPSY IT AND HONOR HER IN A RESPECTFUL WAY AS BABYGIRL WOLF 🐺 SHOULD BE. I TOLD THE GOV OFFICE, AS DID MY E MAIL, THAT THE HILLBILLY AUNT OF SATAN CODY ROBERTS BETTER NOT BE WEARING IT. I suggested the Gov. Read Beth Pratts eugoly of the TORTURED WOLF. I TOLD HER TO TAKE NOTE OF THE WORLDWIDE OUTRAGE AND SOCIAL MEDIA AND EQUATE THAT TO THE TUNE OF 100s OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN TOURISM REVENUE LOST AND COUNTING !!!!!! His trucking 🚚 Co. AND that hillbilly complicit Green River Bar with WOLF BLOOD ON ITS FLOORS AND HANDS are not the only businesses going down in flames. Countless tourist reliant spots in Wyo. Will now too suffer long into the future as a result of that grotesque WOLF MURDER and Green River Bar cowardly hick bar. RIP 🙏 BABY GIRL WOLF. NO ONE CAN HURT YOU NOW. YOUR BRUTAL TORTURE WILL NOT BE IN VAIN !!!!¡!!!

RE Penney
1 month ago

Concise and logical think piece. Hopefully this act of depravity towards the young wolf as outlined in the article will lead to real legislative reforms that will foster sensible wildlife policies.Sensible policies NEVER include trapping or the hunting (or harm) to predators.It is now up to the humane and conservation societies (along with the public) to keep the pressure ramped up; so that this young female wolf did not die in vain.

Carol
1 month ago

Warning: “Pope to Italian scouts: ‘We must defend the dignity of all human life’” Pope Francis said, symbolizes the joy of a child being born into the world, speaks to us about family life “a welcoming and safe nest for the little ones, and of care for life “at every stage.” Examination of the Pope’s implicit corollary clearly means “the de-sanctification, devaluation, denigration of ALL LIFE OTHER THAN HUMAN.”

The history of wolves is a long sordid one. For centuries wolves have been vilified by the Catholic church and through folklore. Who didn’t grow up hearing about Little Red Riding Hood and her fateful meeting with the Big Bad Wolf? Passages throughout the bible use wolves as a symbol of greed with a dark predatory nature. Unfortunately for the wolf they have been associated with the worst of mankind. Wolves are repeatedly mentioned throughout scriptures as an enemy of flocks: a metaphor for evil dishonest men who lust for power and are often used as a metaphor for Satan. The Catholic church uses the negative imagery of wolves to create a sense of real devils prowling the real world. These teachings still go on today. The power of an image can do as much damage as words can. See:
https://www.realitycheckswithstacilee.com/post/the-timberline-wolf-pack-centuries-of-hatred-and-persecution-led-to-wolf-pups-unjust-death

Jesuit Joseph Rickaby: “Brute beasts, not having understanding and therefore not being persons, cannot have any rights. The conclusion is clear. They are not autocentric. They are of the number of THINGS, which are another’s: they are chattels, or cattle. We have no duties to them…. Nor are we bound to any anxious care to make [their] pain as little as may be. Brutes are THINGS in our regard: so far as they are useful to use, they exist for us, not for themselves; and we do right in using them unsparingly for our need and convenience….” 

Imagine, teaching children this rubbish–I know, I was being indoctrinated as a child–to regard other animals as “things,” “property,” “resources,” and “livestock” as a matter of morality, dogma or doctrine! Hardening their hearts at a tender age! In general, the Catholic Church’s teachings have helped to harden many hearts, starting as children under the authority of parish priests, Sunday schools, parochial schools, and news media saturated with what the Pope says and does in public.

Face it, religious beliefs are not separate from the wildlife/predator “management” industry. “Hunter harvest averaged 336 grizzly bears annually for 1978–1996 compared to 236 for 1997–2000” (a note from Grizzly Bear Harvest Management in British Columbia: Background Report).

Years of education — formal or informal — about wildlife management and conservation have shaped our views and beliefs about the natural world. Words like ‘crop’, ‘harvest’, ‘stock’, ‘cull’, ‘yield’, and ‘surplus’ used in biological sciences and by government institutions in reference to wildlife have been so broadly and indiscriminately disseminated that they have achieved a predictable outcome — stripping us of compassion towards non-human animals. Once they are turned into ‘crops’ to be ‘utilized’ and ‘harvested’ for food, all the majestic creatures we had so much affection for and were so fascinated by as children are no longer permitted to feel pain or experience anguish. Words have rendered their lives and suffering irrelevant. 

Sandy Noffsinger
1 month ago

Wendy I’ve just read your article that was in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. I love your article. I am sickened to my core reading what Cody Roberts did to this innocent animal!! The word blood-lust just kept popping into my mind. I read the definition, an uncontrollable desire to kill or maim, and it seems that it pretty much fits with what Roberts intent towards that wolf was. We’ll keep an eye on the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and see if anything changes in this state.

Trish Hartzell
1 month ago

Thank you for writing this article. I was overwhelmed with sadness about the horrid way that human animals treat all non-human animals. I wrote to the Wyoming Tourism Board to let them know that we no longer feel safe holding our family reunions in Wyoming. Killing for sport is a particularly heinous form of hatred. Such individuals are a threat to our social and environmental network.

Nancy Cavazos
21 days ago
Reply to  Trish Hartzell

“Killing for sport” is definitely heinous, but forcibly breeding, confining, and slaughtering animals for profit is much worse. I hope all the “animal lovers” here are vegans….

Last edited 21 days ago by Nancy Cavazos
Teri Clark
1 month ago

. I read your editorial in theDenver Post concerning that poor wolf. I have since looked up numerous other articles about it and found that what that guy did is not a crime in Wyoming. I have read that some equally outraged people are wondering about some kind of Federal cruelty charge. I see there is an Animal Welfare Act that covers humane treatment when exhibiting animals(wild or domestic) It seems to me that “man”was actually exhibiting the wolf when he dragged it into a public bar. I don’t know who to tell this idea to and this poor wolf has been in my mind every second since I read your article. I thought you might be able to relay my idea to people you might know if at all possible though I know its a long shot. I just felt like I had to think of some way to hold that “man” accountable for his horrible cruelty. Such a sad,cruel,humiliating end for an animal whose only “sin” is being a wolf in Wyoming.

Teri Clark
1 month ago
Reply to  Teri Clark

Correction- whose only “sin” *was* being a wolf in Wyoming.

Casey Battikin
25 days ago

The best thing to do is go vegan. Eliminate the market for beef products. Psychopaths use the cattle as an excuse to shoot and torture every living creature that is not a cow. We need more education and better mental health services. People out there are really messed up. Demand our public lands back from private cattle interest. Demand that our representatives work for the people, not the Farm Bureau. Demand representation for our taxation. Everyone is on the take; America is a cesspool of corruption.

O. Zone: Noem on the range cruelty doesn’t fly here in Colorado - Real Vail
18 days ago

[…] how he votes, but I can take a guess) who purposefully hit a wolf with his snowmobile and then paraded the dying animal around a local bar for hours before filing taking it out back and shooting it. Or the local outrage over a […]

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