Hunters, Biologists Angered Over Alleged Wolf Torture Case

Hunters and biologists on Wednesday said the alleged capture and abuse of a wolf in Sublette County was not only inhumane and wrong but plays right into the hands of anti-hunting groups who will try to use this to further their agenda.

Mark Heinz

April 03, 20245 min read

A pack of gray wolves runs through the wilderness in northwest Wyoming.
A pack of gray wolves runs through the wilderness in northwest Wyoming. (Getty Images)

UPDATE: Photo Shows Wyoming Man With Tormented Wolf Before It Was Killed

The alleged capture, tormenting and killing of a wolf in Sublette County, Wyoming, could damage the reputation of wolf hunting in the Cowboy State, and it ratchets up emotion over an already touchy topic, according to hunters and biologists speaking out on the incident.

“It was like a punch in the gut. That’s cruel and sad,” Wyoming outdoorsman Matt Eastman of Green River told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday. “And as hunters, we wat to get those animals down as quickly and humanely as possible.”

Biologist Doug Smith, who led the wolf program in Yellowstone National Park for nearly three decades before retiring, told Cowboy State Daily that reports of animal cruelty can tilt the discussion over wolf management away from a reasonable middle ground.

Eastman and Smith were responding to Cowboy State Daily’s report about a man who allegedly injured and captured a wolf and took it back to his residence. He then allegedly showed it off in a bar in Daniel, Wyoming, before finally taking the animal out behind the bar and killing it.

The Case In Question

According to the account of events, the man ran the wolf down with a snowmobile Feb. 29, disabling it, then taped its mouth shut and kept it alive for some time, at one point showing it off to bar patrons.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department verified that somebody has been cited and fined for being in possession of a live wolf, but didn’t release that person’s name, the name of the investigating game warden or any exact details of the case.

Sublette County Circuit Court records, however, show that local resident Cody Roberts, born in 1981, was cited for a wildlife violation stemming from an incident that day, Feb. 29, and that Adam Hymas was the investigating agent.

A records request from Cowboy State Daily for detailed Game and Fish written reports regarding the case was still pending at press time.

Wolf Hunting Allowed

As the West was settled, pioneers, farmers and ranchers largely regarded wolves as dangerous vermin. After decades of aggressive hunting, poisoning and trapping, wolves had been all but eliminated from Wyoming and the rest of the Northern Rockies region by the early 20th century.

Attitudes about the predators slowly began to shift, and in the mid-1990s, some wolves captured in Canada were released in Yellowstone National Park.

Their population and range continued to expand. After considerable wrangling in federal courts, wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho were de-listed from federal protection in the 2010s, and management of them was handed over to the states. All three states allow wolf hunting.

The part of Wyoming where Roberts’ case happened is in the state’s “predator zone” for wolves. That means wolves in that part of Wyoming may be hunted at any time, with no bag limit and no hunting tags required.

Losing The Reasonable Middle Ground

How to best manage wolves has been an emotional topic from the get-go, and cases like the alleged wolf torment in Sublette county just make matters worse, Smith said.

“Wolf management is difficult and emotional, and the best approach is a reasonable one in the middle — not too extreme on either side,” he said. “Hearing about cases like this makes it hard to do that. It angers (the public) and if people can't make good choices and be ethical then they need regulations. They lose freedoms.

“Stupid decisions get your hands tied. Not to mention people need to think about animal cruelty and that other life forms have dignity and intrinsic value. Torturing and killing like this is not sporting and it's despicable.”

As bad as the case makes things look, it might not ultimately have much effect on wolf management across the region, Lander-based U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Scott Becker told Cowboy State Daily.

Ever since wolves were delisted, “The states have primary jurisdiction in this matter,” said Becker, who is the USFWS Mountain-Prairie Region wolf coordinator. “Although the optics of this incident are not great, because wolves are not listed in the NRM (Northern Rocky Mountains), it will likely have little bearing on wolf conservation and management in the NRM states.”

‘Ammunition’ For Anti-Hunting

Eastman and Zach Key, and avid hunter from La Barge, said they worry about the incident playing into anti-hunting sentiments.

“I wasn't impressed by the fact the guy did that. Horrible idea,” Key said. “What I don't like is the anti-groups are going to use this as ammunition against the majority of us law-obedient citizens. I would never do something like that, but yet I will get my rights to hunt wolves pulled because of his boneheaded stunt.”

Eastman has the same concerns.

“A lot of the anti-hunting groups, they’re gaining a lot of power. And anything like that can give them ammunition,” Eastman said, adding that the alleged treatment of the wolf in Daniel goes against hunting ethics.

“I’ve lived my whole 43 years of existence in Wyoming and I was raised in the outdoors,” Eastman said. “From an outdoors perspective, hunting and fishing are my passions and always have been. As hunters, most all of us in Wyoming and the West strive to make a quick, humane kill so that animal we take doesn’t suffer.

“If the stories are true that the guy ran it over and disabled it with machine and didn’t euthanize it right away, and let it suffer for a bit of time, that angers me,” he added. “That’s not the true spirit of a hunter.”

Mark Heinz can be reached at

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter