Out of Bounds

The Kids Are Not Alright

What should never be debatable is that torturing wildlife is unacceptable

By Rob Breeding

There’s something wrong with the water in Wyoming.

“Sure,” you say. “Tell me something I don’t know.”

I lived in Wyoming for five years. There are many fine folk residing just south of the Montana border. Many fine snow machine jockeys as well.

But this thing with Wyomingites running down animals with their snow machines in order to crash into and kill them has to stop. It’s been going on for — at least as far as I’m aware — since 2018 when “Mountain Journal” magazine reported on it. And it’s not just Wyoming. The practice has defied efforts to make it illegal in Montana since that reporting made me aware of this cruelty and I lost what remained of my innocence.

What makes Wyomingites unique is a penchant for recording the gruesome details on video and sharing them with the world, or in an especially revolting case this winter, taking the maimed but not-yet dead wolf bar hopping in Green River.

That would be a wolf run over by Cody Roberts, of Daniel, Wyoming. Instead of immediately killing the fatally injured wolf, he taped its muzzle shut, then took it to the Green River Bar to show off for a few hours. Roberts eventually took the animal out behind the bar and ended its misery. 

Video of the leashed and dying wolf cowering in the corner of the bar under a coat rack is part of the evidence Wyoming Game and Fish used to fine Roberts $250 for illegally possessing a wolf. Otherwise, his actions were perfectly legal.

Reasonable people can disagree about wolf reintroduction, recovery and the ethics and efficacy of hunting as a tool for managing wolves. And we’ll probably disagree about those things for as long as we have the energy to disagree.

But what should never be debatable is that torturing wildlife is unacceptable. And in this case, the torture begins with the chase. It is shameful that running an animal to exhaustion in deep snow, then maiming it with a snowmobile is legal. If you find a wolf on your snow machine, in a place where killing it is legal, get off your damn sled and shoot it. If you don’t manage a clean kill, quickly fire a second round and finish the act. 

Just because you hate wolves doesn’t mean torture is in any way OK. 

It’s important to remind the non-hunting public that most hunters find this sort of cruelty despicable. MeatEater host and outdoor author Steve Rinella weighed in with an Instagram post of a newspaper headline, “Wyoming hunter sparks outrage for allegedly wounding wolf, parading it in a bar before killing it.” Rinella ran a red slash through the word hunter, however,  replacing it with another word beginning with “a” and ending in “hole.”

Hunters understand we are obligated to minimize the suffering of our kill whenever possible. That means taking only shots where you can reasonably guarantee the animal will die quickly. Ideally, before it hits the ground. I’ve now seen enough snow machine snuff films to understand the first impact rarely kills the animal, even when it’s a smaller coyote. So the pilot circles back and hits it again. 

And again. And again.

If this is the sort of thing you consider fun weekend recreation, I strongly urge you to seek mental health counseling, immediately. Animal cruelty is often gateway behavior to another form of cruelty, directed at those bipedal animals otherwise known as humans.

Predator control is controversial, though at times it may be unavoidable. The Hog Heaven pack southwest of Kalispell was one such instance. I didn’t like it when that pack of 27 wolves was eliminated, but more than a year of control actions hadn’t stopped attacks on livestock. This we can debate, so long as control actions are done as humanely as possible. 

But snow machines are for riding, not killing.