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Death threats roll in as wolf abuse investigation proceeds

Allegations that a Wyoming man captured, tortured and killed a wolf have sparked outrage across the world and prompted a wave of social media posts. One image published by Cowboy State Daily purports to show the man, Cody Roberts, posing for a photograph next to a wolf with its jaws taped shut. (collage by Tennessee Watson/WyoFile)

By Billy Arnold
Jackson Hole News&Guide
Via- Wyoming News Exchange

JACKSON — Sublette County is usually a quiet community of about 9,000 people. But after allegations of wolf abuse went international, residents have been inundated with violent threats from across the world.

Death threats have been directed specifically at Cody Roberts, the man accused of abusing a wolf in late February, officials say.

Threats have also been made against Roberts’ family; the owner of the Green River Bar, the Daniel establishment where Roberts allegedly took the wolf; and other Wyoming men with the same name, said Sgt. Travis Bingham, the public information officer for the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office. Everyday community members have been involved.

A man who plays part time in a band called the sheriff’s office, saying he received a threat because he performed over a year ago at the Green River Bar. The Wyoming Gaming Commission, which regulates gambling in the Equality State, was also threatened, Bingham said, apparently in a mix-up. The caller appeared to think the board was the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission, which manages wildlife.

Even the Sublette Center, a retirement community, had received a threat on social media, Bingham said. The center, however, wasn’t able to confirm before press time that it had received that threat.

“People are just finding everything that’s related, or even unrelated,” Bingham said. “Most of them are keyboard warriors.”

But some threats have been pointed, with “significant plans or steps,” Bingham said. “We’re treating them all very seriously.”

Condemnation for the violent threats and death threats has rolled in as quickly as condemnation of Roberts’ alleged treatment of the wolf.

“There’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it, and threatening violence is the wrong way,” said Kristin Combs, executive director of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, which is pushing for stiffer charges against Roberts. “We would never condone that for anybody.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has only fined Roberts $250 for possessing a live wolf, a misdemeanor. 

State officials say that because wolves are considered “predators” in 85% of Wyoming, and Roberts handled the wolf in that area, animal cruelty statutes don’t apply. 

But animal rights groups disagree and are calling for felony charges, which could come with a penalty of up to $5,000 and two years in jail.

“Violence is never OK,” Combs said. “I know people are angry and upset and mad and sad. And those are all OK emotions to feel. But those need to be channeled into making changes.”

Bob Wharff, executive director for Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, said he’s “thoroughly disgusted” by Roberts’ alleged actions.

“But based on the comments that I’ve seen, your readers exemplify why Wyoming felt it necessary to write legislation which protects everyone,” Wharff said, referring to Wyoming statutes that generally protect the identity of people who legally kill wolves in the state.

Game and Fish originally said those statutes applied to Roberts but has since released investigation records: two videos and an investigation report.

“What he did was indefensible,” Wharff said of Roberts. “However, what others are doing is just as wrong.”

In Wyoming, people who make violent threats can be prosecuted under at least two laws: Wyoming statute 6-6-103, and 6-2-505.

The first statute concerns threats made over the phone, or electronically, to “inflict death” or “injury or physical harm” to a person or the person’s immediate family. That is a misdemeanor and comes with a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail.

The second statute concerns “terroristic threats,” which involve threats of a violent felony intended to cause the evacuation of a building or cause “serious public inconvenience.” That is a felony, punishable by imprisonment of not more than three years.

Bingham said nobody has been prosecuted under either statute.

Still, chasing down violent threats sucks up department resources, which can get in the way of day-to-day operations and could detract from the sheriff’s investigation into the allegations against Roberts, Bingham said.

“I’d just encourage everybody not to flood dispatch and our resources so we can still serve our citizens that we’re trying to serve,” he said.


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