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'Hope' lost and found in Daniel, Wyoming

Wildlife advocates ride rally momentum to D.C.

PINEDALE - Approximately 200 folks were on the ground in the unincorporated community of Daniel in Sublette County on Sunday, May 26 for the planned Hogs for Hope ceremonial check presentation scheduled to take place in front of the Green River Bar.

People from across the United States attended the event, billed as a peaceful protest, including from Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Iowa, Maine, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, Colorado, California and beyond.

'Protecting their town'

Starting the night before and working together to "protect the town," population 158, from some perceived threat that the group flanked by law enforcement would cause "damage or destruction" to private and historical properties in Daniel, some residents preemptively parked their trucks, trailers, campers, old cars and dirty livestock transport trailers bumper-to-bumper on either side of the stretch of Highway 189 through town.

People feared for their safety but still brought their children to the event.

Many of the vehicles and trailers blocking access belonged to Cody Roberts, his company C Roberts Trucking, TJ Hunt and others closely involved in the now infamous Feb. 29 incident

where Roberts dragged a live wolf, bound and wearing shock collars, into the busy food and beverage establishment owned by Hunt's partner Nan McKeough, according to an eyewitness who provided videos to corroborate their claims.

Not all Daniel residents were fans of Roberts' so-called protective parking job, which was put into place Saturday night.

One resident couldn't check his mail because there was no parking and contacted the Sheriff's Office on Saturday evening to ask "how it's legal for Cody Roberts et al to park all the trucks and trailers in Daniel, blocking all parking on both sides of the street."

Despite repeated requests for interviews, Roberts has given no official statement on the incident except to admit during a March meeting with Game and Fish wardens Adam Hymas and Bubba Haley that he took possession of the live wolf by hitting it with a snowmobile.

Roberts paid the $250 citation issued by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for "possession of a live warm-blooded animal" on March 3, without appearing in Sublette County Circuit Court.

The Sublette County Sheriff's Office on April 10 announced its investigation into Roberts and the allegations that he tortured the gray wolf at his home and at the GRB, an investigation which remains ongoing.

As reported earlier this month by Cowboy State Daily, from 2020-2024, Roberts earned roughly $120,000 through his trucking company's contracts with the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission/Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Wyoming Department of Transportation, per information obtained through the Wyoming Transparency Platform and shared with the news outlet.

On Sunday, someone had pinned on either side of the GRB's front door old warrants for the ride's leader.

A small sign ironically advised "No pets" in the bar where McKeough permitted Roberts to keep the wild wolf for what one eyewitness described as "hours."

The wolf, dubbed 'Hope' was reportedly so injured it could barely stay conscious as people hugged it, posed with it and drank around it.

'A ride for wolves'

Through crowdsourcing donations on GoFundMe, Hogs for Hope, led by social media influencer and dog trainer Jonas Black, of Austin, Texas, raised just over $132,150 in only 20 days, "every cent" of which, and more, was given to nonprofit organizations Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Wolves of the Rockies on Sunday, May 26.

Black and his brother rode their motorcycles more than 1,356 miles from Austin to Daniel to "present these funds at the site of Hope's tragedy," meeting up with anti-cruelty advocates, hunters, curious spectators and fellow bikers at Harley Davidson locations dotted along their route.

Black and the directors of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Wolves of the Rockies planned to announce the amount of money raised on the public sidewalk in front of the Green River Bar on May 26 as a "gesture of love and remembrance for Hope and as a statement for the future protection of wildlife."

Black emphasized on his social media platforms that Hogs for Hope "is a peaceful organization" and supporters have "no intention of confronting or harassing anyone in Daniel."

When asked what he would do if Roberts had attended the event, Black said, "I would give him a hug. Someone who does something like that is a broken person."

'Welcome to Daniel'

Although the anti-cruelty event was well received in other Wyoming cities like Green River, 118 miles north in Daniel, residents used Sunday's ride as an attempt to redirect the negative attention back onto Black, who 10 years ago was charged with a third-degree felony, assault with injury and family violence that was eventually dismissed.

An August 2014 warrant out of Travis County, Texas, explained, in part, that Black and then-girlfriend Sydney Jackson were fighting. Jackson "got onto the bed, and while she was holding the dog, Black tried to get on top of her," a warrant states. He grabbed "various places on her body to try to get the dog, including pulling her hair," it continues. While Jackson was on her back, Black "drove his right knee into her ribs and applied his body weight." He "grabbed her throat with his right hand ... applying pressure that prevented Jackson from breathing for approximately 40 seconds." Black "banged (Jackson's) head against the wall," at which point Jackson struck him to get away. She attempted to call 9-1-1 but Black allegedly took her phone and slammed it several times on a nearby piece of furniture, according to information in the warrant.

But less than three years later in March 2017, the felony charge of "assault family violence/ strangulation" against Black was dismissed by the State of Texas when the court granted a Petition for Factual Innocence, or PFI.

Supporters of Hogs for Hope, like Sublette County resident Kelly Ravner, say Black has been open about his past.

At the same time, Black himself maintains "haters" are attempting "to defame" him; after all, only the old warrant for Black was pinned to the outside of the GRB on Sunday, not the rest of the document containing the dismissal of the charge against him.

Black has claimed Daniel residents threatened him and Daniel residents have thrown the same allegations right back at Black.

Thousands of threats against Roberts and other Sublette County residents from people and places around the globe have flooded Sublette County and Wyoming after footage from Feb. 29 inside the GRB sparked worldwide outrage.

The Sublette County Sheriff's Office continues fielding an unprecedented number of related investigations, sucking up resources that could detract from the ongoing investigation into Roberts.

A dedicated tipline, reachable at 307-212- 5108, was established so the county's dispatch center could focus on taking emergency calls.

'Righting a wrong'

In an interview with the Roundup on Sunday, Ravner offered a glimpse into the history of 'yote whacking,' locally.

"I am Sublette County born and raised. My father and his buddies assembled the first snowmobile in Sublette County and they pioneered coyote whacking here. He and his buddies killed thousands and thousands of coyotes and I know they tortured plenty of them so I feel like I have a debt to pay to the wildlife who suffered," she said on Sunday. "I want to see what Cody Roberts did made illegal. I get that most of what Cody did is in fact legal. And that is the travesty. It needs to be said and that's why I'm here."

Of ranchers protecting their livestock from predators, Ravner said, "We don't want to impact their ability to raise their livestock and control predators because that's not what it's about. The point of this effort is to change the legislation."

Ravner's vehicle, with its local license plate and a wolf decal, was keyed by someone while she wore her Hogs for Hope rally t-shirt and carried a flag with a wolf through the often rowdy crowds in downtown Daniel.

Ravner was the only Sublette County resident to publicly speak out against the renewal of the Green River Bar's liquor license at the commissioners' meeting on May 21.

The five-person board unanimously approved the renewal and requested out-of-county residents wait more than six hours until the end of the meeting, and after the vote, to comment about the GRB's liquor license renewal. Gary Garlick, of neighboring Big Piney, said in an interview Sunday that he'd rather be elsewhere but wanted to show up to make his feelings known.

"I'm not too happy with what Cody Roberts did," Garlick said. "There's a lot of ranchers upset with him as well. They're concerned about predator control, but what he did was out of line."

Finger-pointing and pot-stirring

As she walked from the stopping point outside of Daniel into town on Sunday, Sioux City, Iowa, woman Tori Smith and her husband, Tony, said they made a gruesome discovery: the bloody carcass of a coyote, shot dead, its muzzle wrapped in electrical tape.

The pair and several witnesses were adamant that they had nothing to do with the animal's death and only made the discovery while walking into town. They're certain area residents are responsible for the animal's death and say someone left it in that state to be found as a sick way to greet the protestors who were purposefully made to park near its body.

Smith first appeared walking northbound on Highway 189 cradling the coyote's carcass like a child, drawing attention from the crowd. The tearful woman maneuvered around two livestock transport trailers meant to block the Green River Bar from street view and laid the coyote's body on the sidewalk out front.

When asked why, she said, "I brought her to the place where all animals get tortured. Obviously, she (the coyote) was tortured."

Footage shows resident Mitch Gilliam using his body in an attempt to block Getty Images contract photographer Natalie Behring from photographing the dead coyote in front of the GRB before dragging its body.

Gilliam and another resident, Brandy Moore, called the out-of-towners' intentions into question with Moore insisting, "I don't believe in coincidences," and Gilliam asking, "Is that any way to treat a dead animal? She's a woman-beater supporter!" Moore told the Roundup, "That's just disgusting that they would hit it and bring it here."

This reporter observed only a bullet hole in the coyote's side and no tire tracks or other injuries indicating the coyote was struck by a vehicle.

Prior to Sunday's ride, Gilliam checked in on Facebook to Daniel and posted a photo of multiple motorcycles wrecked in a roadway with a caption that read, "Me driving thru Daniel Wyoming Sunday 'Sorry officer I thought those was wolves in the road.'"

From a bench in front of the bar, Brandin Glenn screamed an obscenity-laced tirade about how the Smiths must have been the ones to kill and bring the animal to the GRB as Tori Smith cried.

Glenn eventually stood up to confront the woman's husband, and while no blows were exchanged, the men circled each other while exchanging accusations.

Gilliam and a few other residents maintain that the Iowa woman planted the animal's body. One resident made contact with the lens of this reporter's camera in a failed attempt to block her from taking photographs of Anna Welsh loading the dead coyote into the back of a dark-colored pickup truck parked in the GRB's lot. The man's palm created an interesting vignette effect around the depressing scene.

Like the Smiths, Welsh said she had nothing to do with the animal's death. She told the Roundup and a deputy that she was removing it from the front of the bar to prevent any further escalation of the emotionally charged situation and refused an interview.

When asked by the deputy if the coyote "would come back out," Welsh responded, "Not unless someone goes into my personal property."

Unfazed and undeterred

Just before driving through Daniel, Kim Bean, President of Wolves of the Rockies, went live on Facebook to show the Montana-based nonprofit's 181,000 followers, "The streets of Daniel are very lined up, not a place to park, so they have us outside of town at the Daniel sign. We cannot get to the bar that we wanted to do this in front of, but our presence is here and known."

Due to the lack of parking in town, the group was stopped along with Wyoming Highway Patrol troopers and Sublette County Sheriff's deputies at a turnout just south of Daniel.

A warm welcome or not, the anti-cruelty advocates were completely undeterred from their cause.

When asked, "Are you still going through town?" Bean didn't hesitate as she replied, "Oh yeah, we're definitely going through town. We've got a ride to make and we've got a wolf to whom we have an obligation."

Black added, "They said they would shoot me. They've tried to defame me, slander me, bully me and the organizations involved, but we're still f*cking here showing our teeth!"

Black's rally cry was met with howls and cheers from dozens of supporters standing on the windy concrete patch near Daniel.

"Them barricading the town off is an admission of guilt," Black continued, "It's a forfeiture of the battle. We win in Daniel!"

Ashley Avis, the filmmaker behind the 2022 wild horse documentary "Wild Beauty: Mustang Spirit of the West," was also at the turnout where she and her documentary team announced their intentions to follow Hogs for Hope and its supporters to Washington, D.C., where they'll continue lobbying for protections for gray wolves.

Kristin Combs, of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, added, "Wyoming wildlife doesn't just belong to Wyoming, it belongs to everybody in the country. We have so much work to do in Wyoming but we also have work to do nationally to make sure that torture and torment and animal cruelty is against the law and people are held accountable for doing so."

"We all came to terms on this. Something was objectively wrong. Torture is wrong. Suffering is wrong. We can all unite on that platform," Black interjected, adding, "This is the most American thing that's happened in a while."

After consulting with each other and law enforcement, the anti-cruelty caravan "slow rolled" through the community and continued to a planned celebration in neighboring Teton County.

Before Hogs for Hope headed through Daniel, Bean had some advice for the convoy:

"Calm. Go slow. Abide the laws. Be safe. Be kind."

Many riders and drivers wore red duct tape over their mouths, a nod toward the red duct tape wrapped tightly around the wolf's muzzle as seen in the now viral photos of Roberts with the animal in his mudroom.

Other Hogs for Hope participants traveling in cars stuck signs out their windows calling for change and an end to animal cruelty.

Local reactions

During the drive, Hogs for Hope supporters were met with cheers and jeers as residents called them "woman-beater supporters," "Nazis" and shouted, "He'll strangle you real good."

Hogs for Hope supporters and their film crew recorded the crowd's response.

After refusing interviews throughout the morning and giving fake names, Roberts' supporters deliberately set off their vehicle alarms to disrupt interviews with folks of differing opinions, including one conducted by the Roundup with California residents Holly Smallie and Chris Guio.

Earlier Sunday, when Welsh was removing the coyote's body, this reporter attempted to interview the woman, who declined to even provide her name. That is until later when she walked up and interrupted the recorded conversation with Smallie and Guio. When asked to wait her turn, Welsh replied, "I disagree with the interview."

Speaking to the Roundup before Welsh's disruption and in spite of the car alarms echoing throughout the valley and the group of locals suddenly surrounding the interview, Smallie explained she and Guio are "animal lovers" from the West Coast who traveled some 2,000 miles to "be a voice for Hope."

Smallie said they're willing to travel any distance to make sure what happened to Hope in Daniel becomes a crime punishable by consequences much steeper than a $250 fine.

Sublette County residents turned off their car alarms once Welsh began to speak.

She said, "None of us were happy about what happened at this bar. None of us liked it."

Smallie quickly thanked Welsh and the women embraced as Welsh continued, "The conversation needs to be had and the conversation right now is one that I don't think will actually make a difference."

"What will make a difference," Smallie asked. "When laws are made and when they happen they come from a place of understanding what reality is," Welsh said.

Lonny Johnson, currently on probation for a DUI, then interrupted the interview to add, "My biggest problem is the bar isn't open."

He was asked to leave and took a few steps back.

"The problem here and the most heartbreaking part of it is that the law is what condemned that wolf to death," Welsh explained as Smallie agreed.

Welsh then corrected the public record, explaining "First, the media is saying it was a female wolf. It was not. It was a boy. It was a male wolf. So that in itself is a problem showing you don't trust everything you read."

"I'd still be here if it was a boy wolf," Smallie replied, "Sure, there will be errors. The video is all I needed to see," she added, referencing footage of Roberts bending over to kiss the collared wolf inside the GRB. "I saw an animal suffering, terrified, scared, inside of a bar, that's not where she deserved to be. She deserved to be back out with her pack."

"He," Welsh interjected. "He was kicked out of his pack."

"Maybe," Smallie said. "All I know is a man hurt an animal and it shouldn't have happened."

Welsh replied, "That man was trying to save the animal. That's why the animal didn't get shot right there on the trail."

Smallie recoiled, placed her hand over her heart and told Welsh, "I love you. I think that you're a beautiful woman, too. I think that we probably have a lot more in common than we don't, but that video, there was no helping there."

A self-described "dog-rescue girlie," Smallie doubled down, "If I was trying to help a dog, I would never duct tape his or her mouth shut. I would never bring it into a bar and parade it about. What I would do is call for help."

"I guess you're not going to go in there and have lunch, huh?" Tim Kerback, wearing a C. Roberts Trucking vest, shouted from the crowd of more than a half-dozen locals who gathered around the interview on the public sidewalk.

"They're serving wolf sliders," he said before this reporter confronted him and he began slinging weak insults like, "What's wrong with your face? You look like you've been hit by a car."

Welsh told him, "You're not helping the situation."

"Did he not chase her down? Did he not run her over?" Smallie asked.

"He did not run her over," Welsh said, referring to the animal as a female.

"Excellent," Smallie replied as a third Sublette County man interrupted seconds after the other. The man said, "She (Welsh) is quiet and respectful when you're speaking, can you shut up and let her speak her point?"

Welsh continued, "The problem here is that the law says without exception, without understanding that live (wild) animals cannot be kept so he (Cody Roberts) would have been in violation of the law if he had tried to transport it to a rescue."

"I do think that the beautiful sheriff's (deputies) of this county would have said, 'High-five brother, get her safe," Smallie said before excusing herself.

Whether he took it to the Green River Bar or a rescue, Roberts would have been just as guilty of possession of a live wolf.

Welsh faced the microphones and continued, "You can't even have a conversation with them."

When asked by this reporter if the car alarms, gathering crowd, interruptions and insults might have had something to do with folks not wanting to engage in conversation, Welsh replied, "None of that helps."

Welsh, who owns six rescue dogs and had a bum calf in her trailer, continued, "If I was from who knows where and I read all of that stuff and didn't have the second thought to question what I read, I'd be dirty p*ssed too. No human should read that and agree with those actions but those actions are not being reported accurately. Question what you read. Question what you see. There's two sides to every story."

Roberts, however, won't speak publicly about what happened or the ripple effect it had on his community.

Welsh said she's not sure if Roberts or "any of us can really, honestly have a voice without putting his family in more danger."

Welsh questioned, "How do you know that that look in that wolf's eyes wasn't going, 'Holy crap, I'm finally safe.' It was a male wolf that was kicked out of its pack... The law says what he's supposed to do is shoot it right there. And the irony of this whole situation is that he couldn't bring himself to do it."

Biologist Doug Smith weighed in on the wolf's condition upon reviewing the footage, telling WyoFile, "It's recovering from severe injury, and it's probably got internal organ damage. The fact that this wolf should be freaking out - and it's not - indicates it's in pain and badly injured."

The wolf was allegedly shot outside the Green River Bar later that night.

Momentum and moving forward

Hogs for Hope, Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, Wolves of the Rockies and other anti-cruelty advocates, accompanied by Avis and her documentary team, head to D.C. on June 26.

They're asking folks to contact their representatives to express support for changing the laws.

On Monday, May 27, Black announced on social media that "Every year until the Wyoming laws are changed, Hogs for Hope becomes an annual ride through Daniel to highlight the tragedy and atrocity that was committed to that animal and to highlight the degenerates and the gross people who f*cking hide in Daniel, Wyoming. See y'all next year."

On Tuesday, May 28, following rumors that Roberts was or had traveled to Hawaii, a group of Polynesian warriors, American Legion members and dozens of others got together at Cycle City Harley Davidson in Honolulu, each rider wearing either red tape or a red mask over their mouth, to send a message that, "We have no room for people like Cody Roberts killing wolves, killing coyotes. You are not welcome to come and take refuge on our island!"

Back in Wyoming, a group of lawmakers, agency heads, industry and advocacy group lobbyists are preparing to meet to review enhanced penalties for possessing a live wolf.

WyoFile recently reported that Rep. Liz Storer, of Jackson, is interested in the subcommittee exploring this question: "Are Wyoming statutes adequate to ensure the humane treatment of predators while recognizing the need to address the predation of livestock and other issues related to predator management?"

This story was published on May 30, 2024.

The Pinedale Roundup posted the following editor's note at the end of the story:

*Editor's note: Anna Welsh sent an email to the Roundup on Monday stating, in part, "I only give permission to use my interview and quotes if I get to verify them prior to publication." Welsh's request goes against the Roundup's policy and was denied. Everyone on that sidewalk was repeatedly informed that their comments were being recorded by the media and would be used in this article. All interviews are backed up by video and audio recordings and no source quoted in this or any Roundup article was permitted to review it in advance.