Wyoming Office Of Tourism Stops Wildlife Ads In Wake Of Wolf Abuse Scandal

Wyoming’s wildlife is a big tourism draw, but the state Office of Tourism has paused all of its wildlife tourism advertising in the wake of the wolf torture case that has sparked worldwide outrage.

Renée Jean

April 19, 20247 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

With Wyoming in the crosshairs of an ongoing international scandal over the torture and killing of a wolf, the state is dialing back all its wildlife advertising, according to an emailed advisory sent out to the Cowboy State’s travel sector and obtained by Cowboy State Daily.

The email was sent out by Wyoming Office of Tourism Senior Communications Manager Piper Singer.

Wyoming Office of Tourism Director Diane Shober said her team is continuing to monitor sentiment and activity around the incident, and will act accordingly.

“The Wyoming Tourism Board and Wyoming Office of Tourism join Gov. (Mark) Gordon and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department regarding the recent incident in Sublette County, and the conviction of the defendant for illegal possession of a warm-blooded wildlife.”

Shober said Wyoming Office of Tourism supports a statement provided by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission.

“What happened is not reflective of the values of the state of Wyoming,” Shober added. “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. We encourage all visitors to respect and cherish Wyoming’s wildlife and natural resources.”

In the emailed advisory, Piper acknowledges the widespread public criticism “over the wolf abuse by a resident.”

“Over the past week, Travel Wyoming and many other state agencies are at the forefront of a social boycott,” she wrote. “As a result, we have paused all paid and organic social media until further notice, along with ads related to wildlife experiences.

“We will not be issuing any public statements or engaging with any social comments.”

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How To Handle The Backlash

The email goes on to say that the situation will be evaluated daily, to determine when marketing and content strategies around wildlife should resume.

The email also outlines steps that organizations can take to manage emails, phone calls or social media comments, and urges managers to share the advice with front-line staff and welcome centers.

“As an organization, refrain from sharing your opinion or making public statements related to the situation,” the email states. “It’s important as an agency to not make any personal stances in a statement. Please note that it is perfectly OK to NOT engage with these messages that are abusive or aggressive in nature.”

Piper even shared a statement for organizations to use:

“We appreciate your feedback and value your decision to voice your concerns,” her suggested statement reads. “It’s important to emphasize that the actions of one individual do not reflect the broader sentiments or actions of the state of Wyoming.

“As the official travel and tourism authority in Wyoming, our purpose is to promote and inspire travel, and federal laws and wolf management plans fall outside of our jurisdiction.

“For specific inquiries regarding Wyoming’s wildlife, we recommend reading out to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.”

Roberts And The Wolf

The decision follows worldwide outrage caused after a Sublette County man was accused of capturing a wolf by running it down with a snowmobile, taking it home, then showing it off at a local bar before taking it behind the bar and killing it.

Videos of the captured wolf show a man identified as Cody Roberts, 42, of Daniel at one point stooping down over the wolf to kiss its muzzle, which had been taped shut at one point.

A photograph Roberts with the wolf has also emerged. In it, Roberts poses beside the wolf, whose head is cast downward. Roberts is smiling in the photo, with his arm around the wolf’s neck, seemingly to hold its head still. He has a beer in the other hand.

Roberts was fined $250 by Wyoming Game and Fish for possessing a live wolf, which further outraged many people across Wyoming, as well as other states and other countries. Authorities have said they are investigating the incident further, and there could be more penalties, including loss of hunting privileges.

The incident has brought on a flood of criticism, inundating local law enforcement and Game and Fish phone lines with accusations that the state’s wolf management is too lax, helping to foster questionable practices.

Some of the criticism, however, has targeted people named Cody Roberts who had nothing to do with the incident, they just happen to have the same name and live somewhere in Wyoming.

Wyoming Gets Blasted

One of the most visible results of the fallout over the wolf has been on social media. Every Wyoming official is now a target for comments about what happened in Daniel, no matter what the original topic of the post was.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis, for example, was taken to task over the wolf incident in Sublette County on a post she made blasting the Postal Service’s decision to downgrade Wyoming’s mail processing centers in Cheyenne and Casper.

“Hello Senator Cynthia Lummis, it seems also unacceptable that Wyoming is allowing animal cruelty on a massive scale, and not a word from any elected Wyoming official,” a post from Alan Crawford of Bozeman, Montana, read. “My state, Montana, is no better. Do you approve of chasing animals with motorized vehicles? Your silence speaks volumes about your morals.”

A California respiratory therapist named Laura Shelby, meanwhile, mocked the senator’s post by saying, “If your ZIP code doesn’t impact your ability to commit heinous animal/wolf torture, then it shouldn’t impact your mail center either. Way to go, Senator Lummis.”

Piper, in her email advisory, recommends against deleting such comments from social media, but suggests instead to block aggressive or abusive language such as “torture” or “abuse” using Meta’s (otherwise known as Facebook’s) platform.

She also recommends against directly engaging with comments or posts about what happened to the wolf, and to direct private messages to “more appropriate” resources.

Wildlife A Huge Draw

Wyoming’s untamed wildness, where the deer, antelope, moose, elk and even the wolves play, draws in more than $500 million of the $4 billion or so that tourists spend in Wyoming every year. Wildlife money also supports employment for nearly 10,000 people.

Watching wildlife is also the No. 1 reason many people cite for traveling to the Cowboy State, so it is a substantial part of what draws tourists to the state every year.

Wednesday, however, brought at least 100 people to Riverton for an entirely different reason — to express outrage, in person, over the wolf captured and abused before being killed in Daniel.

Many of the commenters told the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission they were questioning whether they could support Wyoming tourism any more.

“The incident (with the wolf) in Wyoming has given me nightmares,” Lorraine Finazzo of South Carolina told the commission. “Unless there are changes in the laws, we cannot continue to support Wyoming tourism. The laws must change, the world is watching.”

Dozens of people from Wyoming also expressed their outrage over the incident and called for a ban on the practice of running predatory animals down with snowmobiles.

“Wyoming hunters will forever be associated with the likes of the wolf torturer in Daniel, and I refuse to be associated with that,” Wyoming native and hunter Jim Layborn said.

He told Cowboy State Daily after the comment session ended that he’s planning to not obtain hunting tags over the incident.

Renée Jean can be reached at renee@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Renée Jean

Business and Tourism Reporter