Promoting torture by devaluing predators

By Dagny Signorelli, Wyoming Director with Western Watersheds Project
Posted 4/18/24

Wyoming just gave us the clearest example possible of why the state is unfit to oversee the recovery of gray wolves: Cody Roberts’ $250 fine.

By now, most people know that Roberts ran over …

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Promoting torture by devaluing predators


Wyoming just gave us the clearest example possible of why the state is unfit to oversee the recovery of gray wolves: Cody Roberts’ $250 fine.

By now, most people know that Roberts ran over a wolf with a snowmobile, taped its mouth shut, showed it off at a bar and then shot it. His behavior is despicable and horrifying, but the fact of his paltry penalty is further evidence that wolves need federal protection.

When a state entity that is charged with providing the protection of wildlife allows, even justifies, animal cruelty, this entity demonstrates their inability to responsibly manage carnivorous animals. Wolves are designated as “predatory animals” across 85 percent of Wyoming, exempting them from the standard limits on killing and seasons that apply under state wildlife management principles. The exclusion of “predatory animals” in Wyoming from protections against animal cruelty, ostensibly to shield the livestock industry, stands in stark contrast to scientific findings that demonstrate the ineffectiveness and counterproductive outcomes of lethal predator control measures.

Torturing any animal, regardless of its diet, constitutes animal cruelty — a belief passionately shared by Wyomingites and people worldwide. So why did the state of Wyoming ever feel it was necessary to exempt predatory animals from animal cruelty charges?

Indeed, the perpetrator of the torture of this gray wolf should be held responsible for his actions, along with all those complicit. But this highlights a larger problem with Wyoming state law, which has been outlined in scientific studies like Chapron and Treves’ 2016 paper, “Blood does not buy goodwill: allowing culling increases poaching of a large carnivore.”

The findings indicate that permitting the culling of wolves is more likely to escalate poaching activities rather than diminish them. Lax regulations on wolves in Wyoming, coupled with a complete lack of federal protections for populations in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, encourage abuse of these animals. The absence of federal oversight might lead to more instances of such behavior, especially given the prevailing pro-livestock industry bias within the state’s legal and political frameworks.

Policies allowing for wolf torture can communicate a lesser importance of wolves and the perceived value of each animal within the species, normalizing inhumane treatment. The persistence of wolf poaching in Wyoming, with cases documented annually, indicates a deep-seated problem that is exacerbated by the lack of federal protections for wolves. This situation not only threatens the wolf population with extinction but also emboldens those who, devoid of remorse, target these animals. The recent lawsuit by conservation groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect western wolves under the Endangered Species Act highlights the urgency of re-evaluating and strengthening federal protections for these animals.

Wyoming’s narrow interpretation of animal cruelty laws, which excludes not only wolves but other predators such as coyotes, jackrabbits, porcupines, raccoons, red foxes, skunks, or stray cats, reveals a broader issue of inadequate animal protection laws in the state. This legislative gap not only facilitates the mistreatment of these animals but also places Wyoming at the bottom tier of state animal protection laws nationwide. Animal abuse is frequently seen as a sign of psychopathic tendencies and is regarded as a precursor to more severe forms of violence against humans, underscoring the pressing importance of this legislative deficiency.

In 2019, Rep. Mike Yin introduced a bill that would have criminalized running over wolves and coyotes with snowmobiles, which happened in the Daniel incident, but the bill was killed in committee. The reluctance of Wyoming’s legislature to amend these laws expresses a depraved extinction agenda for native predators. Let us not forget the primary justification for predator control is the protection of livestock.

The torture and killing of this gray wolf behind a Wyoming bar is a stark reminder of the need for a major overhaul of how predator species are protected and managed, not just at the state level but also federally. This case highlights the need to reevaluate the adequacy of regulations and to institute reforms that prioritize ethical treatment, science-based wildlife management, and sustainable coexistence between wildlife and human industries.

Dagny Signorelli is Wyoming Director with Western Watersheds Project, a nonprofit conservation group working to protect and restore wildlife and watersheds throughout the American West.

opinion, Sublette County, Daniel, Cody Roberts, gray wolves, Wyoming, wildlife management, predator management, Mike Yin, Danny Signorelli, Western Watersheds Project, snowmobile, legislation, Green River Bar