A Bill to Ban Wildlife “Whacking”

A Bill to Ban Wildlife Whacking

More bad press for hunters…


NOTE: this article was originally published to JHNewsandGuide.com on June 12, 2024. It was posted as a “guest opinion” by the publication, and written by Ted Williams.


Editor’s Note: Columnist Ted Williams provided the following update to this op-ed:

[On June 11th, I sent out my op-ed on “wildlife whacking” — killing and maiming certain predators with snowmobiles, legal in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

My goal was to provide breaking news the following day when U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas, had scheduled a noon press conference to announce legislation to ban the practice. He had provided a draft of that legislation to a nonprofit called Animal Wellness Action (not an animal-rights group), which shared the document with wildlife advocates and fair-chase hunting activists, me included.

According to the draft, Rep. Nehls’ legislation would make it a felony to use “a motor vehicle to intentionally drive, chase, run over, kill, or take a wild animal on federal land.” Violators would “be subject to a fine up to $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both, for each violation.”

On June 12th, the Nehls team reached out to well-known hunting groups and Second-Amendment defenders and asked for their opinions on the bill and feedback and suggestions. The groups did not provide a comprehensive reply in the short period provided before the planned press conference. Mr. Nehls canceled the press conference and the introduction of his bill.

His press secretary, Emily Matthews, informs me that the bill is still very much on the table and that the Congressmen continues to gather input “from all stakeholders” so that he can craft “legislation that will have the best chance of becoming law.”]

As a lifelong hunter, naturalist, and former game and fish agency information officer, I have to salute Wyoming resident Cody Roberts for accomplishing something I and all other wildlife advocates have failed at for decades.

In a single day, he turned most of the public (including conservative politicians) against the popular sport of “wolf whacking” — chasing them to exhaustion with snowmobiles, then running them over until they’re crippled or dead. This week, U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas — a strong conservative, hunter, gun rights enthusiast and former sheriff — announced that he’s leading national legislation to rid our federal lands of people ramming and crushing animals with snowmobiles.

Here’s how Roberts facilitated the proposed bill: On Feb. 29, after crippling an adolescent female wolf with his snowmobile, he duct-taped her mouth shut, strapping on a shock collar for additional torture. He then dragged the traumatized, bleeding pup into his hometown watering hole — the Green River Bar in Daniel, Wyoming — where he mugged for patrons.

After the pup’s prolonged agony began to bore the crowd, Roberts dragged her back outside and somehow killed her.

Nehls’ bill would make it a felony to use “a motor vehicle to intentionally drive, chase, run over, kill, or take a wild animal on federal land.” Violators would “be subject to a fine up to $10,000 or imprisonment for not more than 5 years, or both, for each violation.”

Donald Trump appointee and Wyoming native Rob Wallace, a former U.S. Interior Department assistant secretary for fish, wildlife and parks, said he was “sickened” by the viral photo of Roberts torturing the wolf. Calling it “awful” and “disgusting,” he added that “in no way do I believe this represents who we are as a state.”

Wallace is right with his first assessment, not so much with his second. On 85% of its domain, Wyoming allows year-round killing of wolves by virtually any means including night hunting and burning pups and nursing mothers in their dens.

Wolf and coyote whacking is currently legal in Idaho as well as Wyoming. Technically, only coyote whacking is legal in Montana, but few can distinguish a young wolf from a coyote, and enforcement is almost impossible.

At length, the blizzard of national and international bad press prodded the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to action. On April 4th it cited Roberts — not for violating the state’s Felony Cruelty to Animals statute for “a person who knowingly, and with intent to cause death or undue suffering, beats with cruelty, tortures, torments or mutilates an animal” — but only for the misdemeanor of possessing “live warm-blooded wildlife.”

It fined Roberts $250, calling his wolf whacking an attempted “harvest” and proclaiming that instead of torturing the pup to death he had “euthanized” her.

The Center for a Humane Economy and Animal Wellness Action are offering $30,000 for information leading to Roberts’ arrest, conviction and jailing for at least a year. According to the groups’ president, Wayne Pacelle: “If states persist in allowing running down and running over wolves with snowmobiles and other kinds of savagery, how can they expect the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and federal courts to allow them to have primary responsibility for managing wolves? State legislators and game and fish commissioners are inviting the restoration of federal endangered species protections for wolves with these types of morally and ecologically bankrupt policies.”

Finally, at the very least, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management should impose fair-chase wolf hunting regulations and ban wolf whacking, night hunting, and killing pups and nursing mothers in their dens. This kind of persecution is unimaginable.

Ted Williams is a former columnist for Audubon Magazine. The views expressed here are solely his own.


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