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National wolf advocates are met with stock trailers and frustrated locals in Daniel

Two women with red duct tape over their mouths pose in front of the Green River Bar with Trump flags adorning the front.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Holly Smallie (left) and Chris Guio of California stand outside the Green River Bar, where a live wolf was brought into earlier this year. The women are wearing red duct tape, to recreate a photo of the wolf with its mouth bound with tape.

On Sunday morning the sleepy town of Daniel, Wyoming, population 108, was anything but. The single lane highway through town was lined bumper to bumper with trucks, livestock trailers, semis and hundreds of people.

This was the local response to a weeks-long publicized arrival of a motorcycle brigade of wolf advocates. ‘Hogs for Hope’, which originated in Texas, promised to raise money to bring change to Wyoming’s wolf laws, which they say are insufficient. That’s because earlier this year, Cody Roberts, of Daniel, captured and brought a live, muzzled and allegedly injured wolf into a local bar, later killing it. He was fined $250 by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department for possessing the live animal.

Resulting global outrage toward Wyoming has happened mostly behind a keyboard – until Sunday.

The motorcyclists were two hours late, but a handful of other wolf advocates showed up in Daniel earlier. The clash between locals protecting their town’s – and Roberts’ – reputation and those who were looking for answers and change was mostly peaceful, albeit tense, especially during one interaction.

A crying woman walked the highway carrying a dead coyote with its mouth taped shut. It loosely resembled the photo of the live wolf that had its mouth bound a few months ago.

“That’s messed up,” locals yelled.

Tori Smith, who drove from Iowa to show her support of wolves, said she found the coyote that way on the side of the road outside of Daniel.

A woman carrying a dead coyote walking down a pavement road.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Tori Smith, a wolf advocate of Iowa, carries a dead coyote into town that she said she found on the side of the road.

Horrified, she said her next response was to carry it into town, “Because, I said, this must be where all tortured animals go.”

Smith said she thinks someone was trying to make a statement to the incoming wolf advocates.

“This sh*t has to stop,” she said. “It just has to stop.”

But that’s exactly what many of the locals felt, too.

“See, this is the kind of stuff you're dealing with,” said local Pat Johnson, who showed up to support his community. “They take facts and then they get it blown up into crap like this. This is so far out of control.”

Johnson said Wyoming has had a complicated relationship with wolves ever since they were reintroduced in the ‘90s, and it’s hard for outsiders to understand the dynamic. He supports killing wolves to protect cattle, although confirmed wolf kills of livestock were at their lowest last year since 2003, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

And as for that infamous night at the bar?

“Boys and booze and wolves obviously didn't mix up well,” Johnson said. “What was wrong about it was bringing it to this d*mn bar.”

After the dead coyote was dragged away, the locals continued to mill about, waiting for more wolf advocates to come by. Cowboy hats peppered the crowd outside the Green River Bar, where the wolf was brought into. Trump flags adorned the wooden building. People drank coffee and beer. The livestock trailers blocked the roadside parking. Some even called it like a “family reunion.”

Silver livestock trailers parked in front of a wooden building.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Livestock trailers lined the streets of Daniel, blocking roadside view of the Green River Bar.

“I probably know like 90 percent of everybody here,” said horseshoer Lonny Johnson, wearing a tan cowboy hat and purple silk scarf. “We have a great community. The people are the best. That's why we're here. No other reason than that.”

Johnson said he came out to show support of the community in light of all the backlash. He noted about the wolf incident, “we all mess up.”

But not everyone felt quite so merry. Gary Garlick, from nearby Big Piney, was there to catch up with friends, but mostly to make his point clear.

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

Garlick would like to see Wyomingites support higher penalties for treatment of a predator, which state lawmakers are looking into. But, he reluctantly hoped this gathering and meshing of different ideologies would help achieve more support.

“I don't know if there'll be more cohesiveness among people or if it will create a deeper line in the sand,” Garlick said.

The latter seemed to be true.

A man wearing a cowboy hat and blue jacket stands in front of a wooden building.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Lonny Johnson said he came out in support of his community, wolf incident aside.

Two hours later, there was word that the remainder of the wolf advocates on motorcycles were approaching Daniel. Hogs for Hope, led by dog trainer and social media influencer Jonas Black, publicized for weeks their plans to ride from Texas to Daniel to raise money to enact changes to Wyoming’s wolf laws.

“It was wrong and it will always be wrong,” said Black in a Facebook post about the wolf incident. “There is no gray zone. There is no justification.”

The national attention for the brigade grew in the weeks leading up to it, with media coverage, about $130,000 raised in support and online followers pledging to join along the way.

The original plan was to present the money to representatives from Wyoming Wildlife Advocates and Wolves of the Rockies in front of the Green River Bar. Ultimately, the ceremony was conducted outside of town with a strong police presence.

A police car with lights drives on a road lined with trailers.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
A police escort the Hogs for Hope riders through Daniel.

With the change of plans, locals slowly drifted toward that direction, hoping to catch a glimpse. But they quickly turned around when word spread that the Hogs were still planning to drive through Daniel. They took their places back in the heart of town, next to the stock trailers in front of the Green River Bar.

Six motorcyclists revved through town, following a police escort. Several cars followed, one with a sign reading, “Stop wildlife cruelty.”

The local crowd mostly booed, blatantly giving a thumbs down.

Some yelled out “woman beater” in reference to an alleged 2014 domestic violence charge against Black, the Hogs’ main organizer. A printout of the affidavit was posted next to the Green River Bar door.

In less than a minute the brigade was over. The Hogs planned to carry on to Jackson for their final stop. Some locals called out, “That’s it?” Another said, “And I canceled church for this?”

Diesel engines started and most people packed up and left. But two women from California stayed. They wanted their photos in front of the infamous Green River Bar, posing with red duct tape – just like the tape that bound the wolf’s mouth in one of the leaked images.

A group of people in front of a large, silver trailer.
Caitlin Tan
Wyoming Public Media
Some of those who were frustrated by the wolf advocates, standing in front of a livestock trailer parked in Daniel.

“We drove 13 hours to get here,” Holly Smallie said, as a few remaining trucks blared their horns in the background. “Wolves are magical. We don’t deserve them. We’re no better than them. You live, you coexist, you care about wildlife.”

Mid-sentence, Smallie was interrupted.

“Let’s talk about what happened,” local Anna Welsh said. “There's people that live here. Yes, none of us were happy about it.”

But Welsh disagreed that what happened was “torture,” saying it can’t be proven from video clips. Smallie said the video of the wolf lying on the bar floor was all she needed to see.

Not much talking between the two happened and no compromise was found.

Meanwhile, Wyoming lawmakers hope to find a compromise. A subcommittee including stakeholders was recently formed and will meet over the coming months to discuss possible change, specifically regarding the treatment of predatory animals.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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