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Animal rights groups call for felony charges for Wyomingite who captured wolf

Anger over a recent incident involving the capture and alleged torture of a wolf in Wyoming has grown. Wyoming Untrapped and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates are two of the groups pressing Sublette County officials to file further charges.
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Anger over a recent incident involving the capture and alleged torture of a wolf in Wyoming has grown. Wyoming Untrapped and Wyoming Wildlife Advocates are two of the groups pressing Sublette County officials to file further charges.

Animal rights groups across the country are calling for felony-level penalties for a Wyomingite who recently captured and allegedly abused a wolf in Sublette County. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) investigated the incident and fined the resident $250 for keeping the wild wolf captive.

According to the WGFD, Cody Roberts brought the wolf into his Daniel residence and later into a local establishment before killing the animal in early March. Further details about the incident remain unclear.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the Washington, D.C.-based group, Animal Wellness Action, has worked to make animal cruelty a felony in dozens of states. He said that Roberts — who has denied KHOL’s requests to comment — should face more prosecution under Wyoming state law.

“Why have an anti-cruelty statute with strong penalties if you're not going to use it?” said Pacelle.

Teton County-based organizations Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Wyoming Untrapped have also sent letters to Sublette County officials urging further prosecution. Wolves of the Rockies and Large Carnivore Fund out of Montana were also signatories.

Since the incident made headlines in late March, WGFD has denied media requests for interviews, and after initially responding to KHOL’s questions over email, hasn’t answered subsequent emails and public records requests.

In an April 4 press release, WGFD cited a Wyoming statute (6-3-1008 (a)(vii)) that states information regarding wolves taken in Wyoming is not a public record. A WyoFile analysis disputes the claim, however, arguing that “it’s an oversimplification and misrepresentation of the law.”

WGFD Director Brian Nesvik said in a subsequent press release on April 8 that the actions and behaviors of the individual involved in this case are not reflective of Wyoming's values for wildlife.

“The actions that came to light in this case were disrespectful to wildlife. These actions were not in keeping with conservation principles or ethical behavior. This incident casts a shadow over our state’s proven track record in successfully and responsibly managing our gray wolf population,” wrote Nesvik.

The release also said that because the incident occurred in a part of the state where gray wolves are legally classified as predatory animals, animal cruelty laws do not apply.

Animal rights groups disagree with this assessment and are looking into federal options for prosecution, as well.

Pacelle cited a 2019 law, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act (PACT), that bans the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impalement or other serious harm to "living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians.”

“We are just beginning to campaign on this issue. And I also will note that we are reviewing federal options as well,” said Pacelle.

Copyright 2024 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit Wyoming Public Radio.

Emily Cohen