Sublette County feels impacts of one man’s bad decisions

Individuals, businesses hit with death threats as world reacts to Cody Roberts' treatment of live wolf

By Cali O'Hare, Pinedale Roundup Managing Editor,
Posted 4/18/24

One week after photos and videos of Roberts interacting with the brutalized animal, shown with its muzzle bound by duct tape and wearing at least one shock collar, went viral online, local organizations, businesses, ranchers, hunters and other community members are still grappling with the aftermath. 

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Sublette County feels impacts of one man’s bad decisions

Individuals, businesses hit with death threats as world reacts to Cody Roberts' treatment of live wolf


SUBLETTE COUNTY — Sublette County’s quiet agricultural communities, with a combined population of 8,763 residents, found themselves thrust into the global spotlight after Daniel man Cody Roberts’ well-documented decision to drag a gravely injured, wild wolf into the Green River Bar made international news and drew worldwide condemnation. One week after photos and videos of Roberts interacting with the brutalized animal, shown with its muzzle bound by duct tape and wearing at least one shock collar, went viral online, local organizations, businesses, ranchers, hunters and other community members are still grappling with the aftermath. 

Local impacts

The Sublette County Combined Communications Center continues to function, even as its dispatchers are inundated with increased calls as folks from near and far reach out to demand answers, report real and perceived threats, request property watches and report harassment. The sheriff’s office is requesting folks with information or concerns related to the case call the deputy-staffed tipline, which can be reached at 307-212-5108.

The SCSO is urging the public “not to resort to threats of violence” as a means of expressing frustration since such actions “endanger the lives and peace of the residents of Sublette County, State and County employees and innocent people outside Sublette County not at all involved in the situation. Threats of violence against Mr. Roberts or his family are also not appropriate … expressions of violence and harassment can result in hindering law enforcement investigations as potential witnesses may choose not to come forward or cooperate for fear of retribution.”

Over the last week, businesses, organizations and individuals in Sublette County have reported receiving such threats due to their affiliation with Roberts and his family, or, in some cases, because they exist in the same small community. The Daniel Junction reported receiving between 10 and 15 threatening calls per day since the news broke. Meanwhile, the Best Western in Pinedale also reported a death threat, presumably meant for one of Roberts’ outspoken and supportive family members who is employed at the hotel. Roberts’ uncle, Shane Roberts, reported several threatening phone calls he received and blocked on April 10. At least one Sublette County resident reported receiving random calls on their landline from a man inquiring as to Roberts’ address and current location. 

Wyoming Fishing Company, a guide service for on-the-water angling trips along the Green River in Sublette County, received its first one-star business review even though its business had nothing to do with the incident. 

Even the Green River Star, an award-winning newspaper in neighboring Sweetwater County, received a death threat intended for the Green River Bar. Calls also came in from neighboring Lincoln County, where men who share the same name as Cody Roberts were receiving threats.

Over the weekend, an increased police presence was observed in Daniel, which has a population of 158. Deputies dutifully responded to calls to check on the Green River Bar, the Roberts’ AirBnB and even the pullout north of town. On April 9, Roberts reported a black Dodge SUV that kept driving past his property. That night, Roberts’ aunt, Jeannie Ivie Roberts contacted the sheriff’s office to report a little white car resembling a Toyota Corolla had pulled into her nephew’s AirBnB and then shut its lights off just before midnight. Responding deputies discovered the alleged trespasser was nothing more than a tired guest who had booked the AirBnB for the evening. On April 12, TJ Hunt, a Daniel resident and longtime partner of the GRB’s owner Nan McKeough, called to report a man in a white pickup truck with out-of-state plates parked at the pullout north of Daniel. Although the GRB was closed for lunch on Saturday, April 13, a sheriff’s deputy was stationed in the bar’s gravel parking lot for part of the morning. 

Further down the gravel road at the Daniel Schoolhouse, the seven voting democrats who showed up to the Sublette County Democratic Caucus on Saturday morning spoke out against Roberts’ actions.

At its April 8 meeting, the Pinedale Town Council reminded the public that it does not have jurisdiction over anything that happens in Daniel after they were inundated with calls for action. Likewise, the Sublette County Commissioners were forced to issue a cautionary disclosure before opening public comment at its Tuesday, April 16 meeting. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which met April 16-17 in Riverton, heard more than 100 members of the public who signed up specifically to speak about the 9-month-old wolf Roberts killed in Daniel. For time, each speaker was allowed one minute to address the commission. The commission condemned Roberts for taking possession of warm-blooded wildlife during the April 16 meeting, with a formal release that decries “By way of this statement, the Commission denounces the actions that were revealed following the Department’s investigation of the incident. The actions of the defendant do not represent the value Wyoming people and our Commission have for our incredible and priceless wildlife resources.”

The Commission, which is appointed by the governor, doubled down on its management of the state’s wildlife and predators, explaining, “For over one hundred years, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department has successfully managed Wyoming’s wildlife. Wyoming has proven itself to be the gold standard in wildlife management. This incident perpetrated by one individual does not represent a failure in wildlife policy or management.”

The Commission further emphasized, “We wish to be clear: We support the investigation conducted by the Department. We recognize and appreciate the work of the Department and the work of the Wardens involved. We’re satisfied that every tool we have available was used, and used to the best of our ability. The Department has acted with transparency and in compliance with Wyoming law.”

Roberts paid his $250 citation without even appearing in Sublette County Circuit Court on March 3. As reported by the Roundup, a minor in possession of alcohol that same week received a harsher punishment and steeper fine than Roberts did. 

Ongoing investigation

Shortly after the Roundup went to press last week on April 10, Sublette County Sheriff K.C. Lehr’s office announced it is now investigating the Feb. 29 incident, after receiving communication from hundreds of thousands of folks who believe Roberts’ conduct warrants felony animal cruelty charges and a loss of hunting privileges. Petitions calling for such consequences have surpassed 100,000 signatures in the last few days. “Our office, along with the Sublette County Attorney’s Office, are working with Wyoming Game and Fish to gather evidence and information relevant to the case,” a statement from the sheriff’s office reads. “As this is an active investigation, we will not be able to release any details at this time.”

Multiple organizations, including Animal Wellness Action, Center for a Humane Economy and Wolves of the Rockies have set up reward funds, totaling more than $30,000 in cash to any individual who provides additional evidence to police and prosecutors about Roberts resulting in his being sentenced to prison for animal cruelty. The organizations plan to share any substantial evidence they receive with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office.
Folks are also calling into question whether Roberts could be charged with crimes for discharging a firearm within municipal limits in an area where residences and businesses are present, discharging a firearm while under the influence of alcohol, allowing his minor child to accompany him into a bar and bringing a wild animal into a food and beverage establishment. 

Viral photos and videos

Also after the Roundup’s April 10 press deadline, Cowboy State Daily, which prides itself on “fearless journalism” released more footage of Roberts inside the GRB. The latest video depicts Roberts, who is clearly intoxicated and slurring his words, kissing the dying wolf on the floor of the GRB as bar patrons, many of whom are reportedly Roberts’ relatives, can be heard laughing in the background. A girlish voice just off-camera sounds hauntingly like Roberts’ 16-year-old daughter, as she exclaims through giggles, “Oh, daddy!”

In another video, footage reveals bloody feces and spatter on the floor of the bar, near where the wolf is chained.

According to an anonymous witness who spoke to WyoFile about what they saw, the crippled wolf languished on the floor of the GRB for hours while McKeough continued tending bar and providing drinks to patrons. 

Wyoming Department of Agriculture Public Information Officer Derek Grant confirmed to Cowboy State Daily this week that the agency is sending a Consumer Health Services Division inspector to the GRB to determine if having a live, injured wolf in the establishment, which serves food including once-famous slaw dogs, constitutes any food safety violations. 

“(Roberts) was a jokester about it,” the eyewitness told WyoFile reporter Mike Koshmrl, “while (the wolf) was just sitting there bleeding to death.”

In the eyewitness’ opinion, Roberts, who owns and operates C. Roberts Trucking, thought the entire episode was hilarious. “I don’t know if he’s literally low-IQ, and just doesn’t get that this shit’s not OK,” the eyewitness said. “He was drunk and rambling mostly. A guy who thinks highly of himself.”

WyoFile, a nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy,  reported that after Roberts initially ignored McKeough, she “didn’t waste her breath” and did not ask the Daniel man to leave or remove the wolf. The eyewitness could tell that the GRB’s owner, who worked solo that night, “was not OK with it,” but was in a tough spot.

“His family were half the (30 or so) patrons (who came and left the bar) that night,” the eyewitness told WyoFile. “What are you going to do, kick the whole bar out and close up for the night?”

WyoFile reported that nobody forcefully told Roberts that he needed to put the animal out of its misery during the hours the eyewitness was present at the GRB. Some patrons were clearly bothered by what they saw, but those folks just removed themselves from the situation and left, the eyewitness told WyoFile.

“By the end of the night, he was calling it a wolf,” the eyewitness said. “He definitely admitted that he put the collars on it.”

WyoFile has granted anonymity to the person — who was at the bar on Feb. 29 and later reported the incident to authorities with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department — at their request for their safety. 

In a follow-up conversation with a Game and Fish employee, the witness was told that Roberts admitted to running over the wolf with a snowmobile, which would have weighed about 700-800 pounds. Roberts “injured it so bad it could barely stay conscious,” one state employee said.

Legal perspectives

It’s not illegal to run down a wolf using a snowmobile in the 85 percent of Wyoming considered “a predator zone,” including near Daniel where Roberts took this wolf.

But instead of dispatching it at the scene of the takedown or leaving it injured to die in the field, Roberts took the wild animal, transported it alive back to his home where he posed with it for photos, bound its mouth with red duct tape and a muzzle and put shock collars on it before dragging it into the bar for more pictures, videos and attention. 

Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action and Center for a Humane Economy believes “there could be provisions under the Lacy Act or other regulations that result in federal animal cruelty and /or illegal possession charges being filed against Roberts,” Pacelle said in a recent release. “The key factor with the Lacy Act is, where did he strike the wolf on the snowmobile and take possession of her?” 

Additionally, a legal analysis by the general counsel for two national animal welfare groups says that no legal exemption shields Roberts from felony charges and prosecution for the psychological and physical torment of the young wolf. “Local prosecutors have raised questions about whether the state’s animal cruelty provisions would apply to the actions of Roberts, citing exemptions in the law for ‘predatory animals’ and suggesting that the laws only apply to domestic animals, like cats and dogs,” attorney Scott Edwards said. “Such a narrow reading of the law is not accurate,” Edwards added, noting, “the law’s reach is not restricted only to domesticated animals. The plain language of the state makes it clear that once he took possession of the animal, he would be compelled not to violate the state’s prohibition on animal cruelty.”

Sublette County prosecutor Clayton Melinkovich stated in an email, “While many of the animal abuse provisions do not apply to the hunting, capture, killing, or destruction of a predatory animal, there are narrow circumstances where a person could be charged and convicted of animal abuse. I cannot and will not comment on any pending investigation.”

Jeanne Ivie Roberts, who sparked outrage for posing in a wolf’s pelt with duct tape over her own mouth inside the GRB, has declined repeated requests for interviews from multiple award-winning Wyoming news organizations, including the Pinedale Roundup, but granted an interview to the U.K.-based tabloid the Daily Mail. “Speaking exclusively” to them over the weekend, Ivie Roberts, a bartender at the GRB, told the tabloid a pack of wolves killed numerous elk just for sport in the area “recently,” but the elk in question were killed near the McNeal Feedgrounds eight years ago, in 2016. 

“It’s easy to judge from some big city far away, but until you experience the damage that can be done by these animals, you really don’t have room to speak on it. We have to deal with this every day,” said Ivie-Roberts. 

Limited wolf-livestock conflicts in Sublette County history

Despite her claims, wolf and livestock conflicts are not a daily occurrence in Sublette County. As reported by the Pinedale Roundup in November 2023, there were only nine wolves in Wyoming’s Gray Wolf Trophy Game Management Area that preyed upon cattle in 2023, down 30 percent from the 13 wolf-cattle conflicts reported in 2022. The “implicated” wolves as determined by USDA Wildlife Services were members of the Lava Mountain Pack which lives in the Gros Ventre hills and the Gypsum Mountain Pack near Bondurant. Three wolves were removed from the latter pack, with legal hunters harvesting three more. Further back, in 2021, the Sublette County Predator Board confirmed only three wolf-cattle conflicts in 2021, with one calf killed in the Upper Green, one calf bitten and injured near Bondurant and one injured yearling heifer which recovered and was sold for no loss. 

Predators and loss compensation

There have been far more grizzly bear conflicts locally than conflicts with wolves, according to the Sublette County Predator Board. Of the 82 total grizzly conflicts in summer 2022, 74 percent were related to cattle with 61 head taken by grizzlies. In the summer of 2023, there were 101 grizzly bear conflicts in the Pinedale Region, 95 percent related to cattle. Twenty-four were outside the Upper Green River grazing allotments, meaning 77 conflicts took place on the Upper Green. In 2023, 96 of the 101 Pinedale Region grizzly conflicts with cattle were confirmed as losses.

Ranchers are eligible for significant compensation and reimbursement for confirmed livestock losses related to predation by wolves, grizzly bears, black bears and mountain lions in Sublette County and elsewhere in Wyoming. The WGFD Commission sets specific “multipliers” for different ages and sex of confirmed kills considering the livestock’s purpose for breeding or sale. Nonlethal strategies are very important to Game and Fish and livestock producers to manage large carnivore conflicts, Clint Atkinson, the Pinedale Region’s carnivore biologist said at the November 2023 meeting, with hazing, electric fencing, relocation “as well as extensive efforts to promote bear awareness.”

Talking to tabloids

Still, wolves are demonized by many, including at least some members of the Roberts family. “How exactly do you torture a wolf? Wolves are evil animals. They destroy our livelihoods,” Ivie Roberts told the Daily Mail. 

By definition, “evil” means “profoundly immoral and wicked.” The term “morality” is defined as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” In other words, a wild animal cannot be evil because it cannot conceive of morality, merely its survival — unlike humans who should know the difference between right and wrong. 

Real ranchers who do depend on their livestock to make a living in Sublette County, like Miller Land and Livestock which has been producing quality feeder cattle and highly regarded performance horses in Big Piney for 135 years, told the Roundup that Roberts’s actions were “cowardly,” and are “rightly looked upon by the vast majority in Sublette County and Wyoming as horrendously wrong, sad and sickening. It has stained the reputation and put a very ugly smear on our entire state, especially Sublette County.” For more, see the opinion section.

‘Dumb kid stuff’ and the question of remorse

Hunt also spoke to the Daily Mail, saying of the 42-year-old defendant, husband, father and former volunteer firefighter, “I chalk it up to another dumb kid doing dumb kid stuff.”

Hunt claimed Roberts has expressed remorse for his actions and apologized, but to whom remains unclear. Roberts has yet to speak publicly or offer any statement, much less an apology. Former friends of Roberts and residents of Sublette County who feel unfairly attacked because of his actions say they’re still waiting on an apology. Instead, Roberts has continued to brag about the issue, with locals reporting he called the $250 citation “worth it” and no more than “a round for the bar.”

Despite only conducting interviews with Ivie-Roberts and Hunt, the tabloid painted Daniel and Sublette County with a broad stroke, titling its piece “Wyoming town defends wolf killer Cody Roberts who paraded predator in local bar, insisting the animals are a danger to their way of life.”

Coming up

Billy Arnold, another award-winning journalist, reported that Gov. Mark Gordon “has convened a group of ranchers, hunters, wildlife advocates and legislators to respond to the incident and the publicity it’s generating, three members of the group told the Jackson Hole Daily. While the group has talked about statewide policy, it’s not clear if it will propose changes — or consider them at all.

“To be clear, this is not a formal working group and there is no ‘end goal,’” Gordon’s spokesman Michael Pearlman said via email. “The Governor did have a joint call with a few state officials and stakeholders to discuss what occurred in Sublette County and wolf management in general. There was agreement to continue to monitor the situation as it develops.”

Pearlman declined to release the names of people in the group, citing security issues amid the ongoing violent threats directed at Wyomingites.

This is an ongoing story and the Pinedale Roundup will continue to provide updates on local developments in this case. 

Sublette County, Daniel, Cody Roberts, TJ Hunt, Nan McKeough, Jeanne Ivie Roberts, Green River Bar, wolf, Sublette County Sheriff's Office, local impacts