Sublette County Attorney responds to worldwide public outcry over alleged wolf incident

The Sublette County Attorney’s Office released a statement this week on the recent wolf incident in Daniel. This comes after the killing and alleged torture of a wolf by a local resident has received international attention.
Gray wolves are listed as federally endangered in much of the country, but are under state control in parts of the Mountain West. (Matt McCollum /CC by 2.0)

by | Apr 24, 2024 | Crime, Environment

This story comes through a content-sharing partnership with Wyoming Public Media.

The Sublette County Attorney’s Office released a statement Monday, April 22 on the recent wolf incident in Daniel. This comes after the killing and alleged torture of a wolf by local Cody Roberts in late February has received international attention.

Sublette County Attorney Clayton Melinkovich penned the lengthy release, acknowledging the massive amount of public interest.

“The calls and messages I have received have similar themes and I will do what I can to address your concerns. Please keep in mind my legal obligations with respect to commenting on investigations and prosecutorial decisions,” Melinkovich wrote.


The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office Facebook post sharing the attorney’s statement has received nearly 400 comments to date, many from accounts that are not in Wyoming and that are still very angry. One commenter went so far as to call Wyoming the “animal abuse and torture state.” Many political leaders in the state have called out Roberts’ actions and expressed disdain, saying that this doesn’t represent Wyoming or its wildlife values.

The $250 fine

Melinkovich’s letter is broken down into seven sections, starting with an explanation behind the $250 fine to Roberts. The only repercussion he faced. Melinkovich said nearly every message he’s received expressed “dissatisfaction” with the amount.

“Many people have voiced their concern by saying that punishment does not fit the crime that many feel he has committed,” he wrote.

Roberts was cited by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) for violating a statute that prohibits possession of a live wildlife, as first reported by KHOL. Upon Roberts paying the fine, the case was then closed.

However, Melinkovich wrote, “The citation was issued prior to any allegations of abuse during the time he possessed the wolf and this office, nor the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, was involved in the issuance of that citation. The existence of the citation does not eliminate the potential for future charges.”

The predator zone

The next section focuses on the legalities of hunting wolves in Wyoming. In Wyoming, about 85% of land is in a “predator zone.” In these zones, there’s no hunting season and no license is required. Based on the WGFD citation, the wolf was captured in a predator zone.

There’s a complicated history with the state’s ability to manage wolves. Wyoming gained jurisdiction over the wolf in 2012 when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced it was ending federal protections for the gray wolf in Wyoming. Legal challenges resumed the protections in 2014, but that was once again reversed in 2017, putting Wyoming back at the helm. On Tuesday, April 23, environmental groups announced their intent to sue the USFWS to restore federal protections, specifically citing this alleged incident. According to those groups, this intent to sue was the third filed in recent months aiming to restore protections for gray wolves in the Rockies.

In the release, Melinkovich goes on to write about the “applicability of animal abuse laws.”

“It is lawful for a person in Wyoming to hunt predators from, with, or by use of a helicopter, automotive vehicle, trailer, motor-propelled wheeled vehicle, or vehicle designed for travel over snow,” he wrote.

It’s alleged that Roberts ran down and over the wolf with a snowmobile.

Melinkovich added that there are narrow circumstances in which someone could be charged with animal abuse of a predatory animal but that he “cannot and will not comment on any pending investigation.”

The abuse allegations

Next, Melinkovich addressed the allegations of abuse in the news. He pointed out that Roberts is presumed innocent until proven guilty in court, and that he considers information, photos and videos in recent news to not be ‘verified facts’ at this point. Recent coverage has shown videos and photos that depict a variety of scenes — one with Roberts posing with the wolf’s whose mouth is taped shut, another showing the wolf lying listless, muzzled and leashed in the local Green River Bar and another showing Roberts trying to kiss the wolf in the bar.

“Unless something can be proven in court beyond a reasonable doubt, it is not a fact that I or any other prosecutor can consider when making a charging decision,” he wrote.

Petitions and award money

Melinkovich also commented on recent calls to action, specifically the petition that calls for Melinkovich and other county officials to charge Roberts with a felony. Additionally, the Center for Humane Economy is offering $15,000 to anyone who supplies details that result in the arrest and incarceration of Roberts. The group also released a legal analysis specifying how they think Roberts broke the law.

Melinkovich said he respects the concern and outrage, but that he “simply cannot charge a person with a crime simply because a lot of people have asked me to do so.”

Threats to Sublette County residents

Melinkovich followed this section with a note on the recent threats of violence. He wrote that Roberts and others in Sublette County have been threatened and that this isn’t helping with the investigation or any group’s goals with reforming Wyoming’s laws.

The Sublette County Sheriff’s Office reported that their 9-11 line has received an overwhelming amount of worldwide phone calls on the issue – so much so that it’s affecting their ability to respond to emergencies in the county. They’re asking people to call the hotline number instead at 307-212-5108.

Lastly, Melinkovich wrote about the ‘perceived lack of action’ from the county. He reiterated that an investigation is underway and that it’ll take time.

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