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A Wyoming man is under investigation after bringing an injured wild wolf inside a bar


Wyoming is home to hundreds of wolves. Most live near Yellowstone National Park, are protected and are a big draw for tourists. But elsewhere in the state, wolves are a reviled predator viewed as a threat to the livestock industry. In those places, killing wolves is legal. One man who did that recently is now under investigation after the animal's death sparked outrage around the world. Caitlin Tan at Wyoming Public Radio reports.

CAITLIN TAN, BYLINE: Video shot inside a Wyoming bar in February show a man with an injured, muzzled and leashed wolf. That man is Cody Roberts, who's from a longtime local ranching family. Anonymous sources say Roberts ran the wolf over with a snowmobile, which is legal, but it's what happened at the bar - Roberts displaying the wolf - that has become a huge story.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Well, he has a collar on.


TAN: Someone at the bar that night reported Roberts to game wardens. They ticketed him for possession of live wildlife, and he paid a $250 fine. But when videos from the bar leaked in April, they spread internationally.

CODY ROBERTS: I've had death threats from Ireland, Russia, Japan, Australia.

TAN: The Cody Roberts who's under investigation isn't talking to reporters. This Cody Roberts lives two hours away and isn't related.

ROBERTS: I don't know how many thousands of messages I've had.

TAN: Because some people have mistaken his Facebook page for the other Cody Roberts.

ROBERTS: Like this one just says, you're a psychopathic wolf torturer - kill yourself.

TAN: Roberts says he's also disappointed in what the Cody Roberts did, but he actually thinks these threats are worse.

ROBERTS: Does he deserve everything that he's getting? No, I don't think he does. You know, he's still a human.

TAN: This anger spilling out beyond Sublette County where the video was shot. #BoycottWyoming is a trending hashtag, and local businesses are being left one-star reviews only because they're in the same area. Cali O'Hare, the sole employee of the local newspaper, the Pinedale Roundup, has had to write about it.

CALI O'HARE: It is truly one of those - you're damned if you do, and you're damned if you don't.

TAN: In this tight-knit community known for cowboys and sprawling sagebrush, this kind of attention is unheard of. And O'Hare says it's clear that some didn't like hearing about an incident that cast a shadow over one of their own. Here's one comment she got.

O'HARE: It says - go practice real journalism, Cali O'Hare, you [expletive] on a witch hunt for a man's family.

TAN: Others asked O'Hare to stop the coverage. One accused her of not being objective or embellishing.

O'HARE: I'm just doing my job. It's not personal, and I have great empathy for all of the folks involved in this.

TAN: The local sheriff's department was getting so many phone calls and messages, it set up a separate tip line. Outsiders want Roberts, who the sheriff's department is investigating, to be arrested, and some say Wyoming's wolf laws should be changed. C. J. Box is a popular Wyoming author who's penned dozens of books following a fictional game warden.

C J BOX: An incident like this tars everyone.

TAN: Box says people may not like Roberts and Wyoming being attacked by outsiders, but that doesn't mean they're defending what he allegedly did with the wolf.

BOX: That's not hunting. Every hunter I know of, if they wound something, will try to dispatch that animal as quickly and humanely as possible - not take it back, not show it off, not take pictures with it.

TAN: Box says Wyoming's compromise wolf laws are mostly working, protecting them in some places and allowing them to be hunted in others. But this incident has state lawmakers looking at making changes. For NPR News, I'm Caitlin Tan in Sublette County, Wyo.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOM SZIRTES' "BLISSED OUT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Caitlin Tan
Caitlin Tan is working as Inside Appalachia’s folklife reporter, as part of a Margaret A. Cargill Philanthropies grant. The goal of her reporting is to help engage a new generation in Appalachian folklife and culture. Caitlin comes from a rural mountain town in Western Wyoming. She grew up ski racing, showing her horses in 4-H and moving cows in the high mountain deserts. It was in this town she discovered her love for journalism. Caitlin’s career began in print, interning for the local newspaper. She went on to write and eventually worked as news editor at the Branding Iron newspaper, part of the University of Wyoming, where she later graduated with a B.A. in journalism. Although she was always an avid listener to NPR, she found her love for public radio journalism as an intern with Wyoming Public Media. After, Caitlin spent a whirlwind summer as a fisheries reporter in Bristol Bay, Alaska - international sockeye salmon capital - working for KDLG, the local NPR affiliate station. She was a solo-correspondent based in Naknek - a Native village of 500 people - where she climbed on commercial fishing boats and trudged the rainy, muddy beaches to find the fishing scoop. This job helped her land a producing internship, and later a job as news assistant for NPR’s All Things Considered in D.C. She worked closely with the entire team - helping to produce everything from a manicly decorated Christmas house to live interviews with U.S. senators to an exclusive interview with fashion designer Alexander Wang. All along, Caitlin always knew she wanted to return to feature reporting in a rural area. As shown from her fisheries reporting, she loves to immerse herself in new cultures. So when the Inside Appalachia folklife position opened up she jumped at the opportunity. Caitlin, her boyfriend, and two rescue Border Collies up and moved to Morgantown, WV. As someone who grew up in a rural area, Caitlin understands the value and heritage of tradition and craftsmanship in a culture. She’s very eager to further her knowledge, as well as engage and report on folklife in Appalachia.