Animal Forensics Expert Calls For Examination Of Tortured Wolf Carcass

A Wyoming animal forensics expert is calling for an examination of the carcass of a wolf that was allegedly captured and tortured in Daniel, but it’s not clear whether the carcass is still available.

Mark Heinz

April 19, 20245 min read

Wolf in bar 2 4 10 23

For the sake of transparency in the case of a wolf allegedly captured, abused and killed in Daniel, Wyoming, a forensic expert is calling for an examination of the wolf’s carcass.

However, it was unclear Friday whether the wolf’s remains are still available for a necropsy — a forensic examination of an animal carcass.

It’s evident from video footage of the wolf that the animal was in terrible shape when Daniel resident Cody Roberts, 42, allegedly took it to the Green River Bar on Feb. 29, retired University of Wyoming pathologist Donal O’Toole told Cowboy State Daily on Friday.

“I assume that animal had fractures. If you look at that video, that wolf was dying,” he said.

O’Toole was at UW from 1990-2023, and was involved in numerous forensic investigations of animal cruelty and wildlife regulation violation cases at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory (WSVL).

“We would do one or two forensic necropsies a year,” O’Toole said. “We’d get a lot of disturbing and distasteful cases in.”

The national, and even worldwide, attention that the case of the wolf in Daniel has drawn warrants such an examination, he said.

Is An Examination Possible?

O’Toole suggested the necropsy in his remarks during a lengthy public comment session before the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission in Riverton on Wednesday.

On Friday, he emailed a follow-up letter to Game and Fish Commission President Richard Ladwig.

O’Toole told Cowboy State Daily that he hadn’t been told whether the wolf’s carcass was still available for an examination. He said he understood that the wolf’s pelt had been recovered, but was uncertain about the carcass.

But even now, the carcass could be used for further investigation, he says in his letter to Ladwig.

“Even if the skinned carcass was buried, it will be possible to get a sense of the animal’s injuries … based on the presence and extent of skeletal fractures,” the letter states.

Ladwig on Friday told Cowboy State Daily that he had received O’Toole’s letter, but couldn’t comment on details regarding possible further investigation in the case, such as the possible availability of the wolf’s carcass.

Any such decisions would be up to Game and Fish agents and others investigating the matter, Ladwig said.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s and County Attorney’s offices announced last week that they, along with Game and Fish, are investigating possibly bringing stiffer charges against Roberts.

So far, the only penalty on record for Roberts is a $250 fine for illegal possession of a live wolf.

Sublette County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich on Friday told Cowboy State Daily that he was also aware of O’Toole’s request, but couldn’t comment on any details of the investigation.

“The investigation is underway. We’re taking this investigation very seriously and we appreciate everybody’s patience as it takes its course,” he said.

O’Toole’s letter states that officials have several options for a necropsy, including WSVL, as well as similar laboratories in Fort Collins, Colorado, and other states.

“A necropsy performed under chain-of-custody, with prompt public release (of) the results, will demonstrate the WGFD’s commitment to using every tool available to establish all of the facts in this matter, and to transparency,” the letter states.

O’Toole said he’s not sure what his next move will be. But he appreciates how Game and Fish officials have been overwhelmed by the outraged response to the alleged wolf torture and killing. So he wants to give them ample time to respond to his request.

“My impression is that this is a reasonable (Game and Fish) commission, and they’re in a pretty tough spot,” he said.

‘Coyote Mashing’

According to accounts of events Feb. 29, Roberts ran the wolf down with his snowmobile and then took it back to his residence and, at some point, taped the wolf’s muzzle shut. He took it to the bar to show it off before taking it behind the bar and killing it.

Beyond the specific allegations against Roberts, a necropsy of the wolf’s carcass could shed light on the practice of running down predators with snowmobiles, O’Toole said.

The practice, sometimes called “coyote mashing,” is probably more common in Wyoming than many people realize, he said.

If details of fractures and other injuries suffered by the wolf emerge, it could shed light on what getting hit by snowmobiles does to animals, O’Toole said.

He added that when people kill predators, they should do so quickly.

“If you’re going to kill a wolf, just shoot the wolf,” he said. “Same with coyotes, just shoot them. There’s no need to hit it with a snowmobile and then run back over it.”

Mark Heinz can be reached at

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter