‘This is family’: Wolves kill two dogs in northern Colorado

Dylan Anderson
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Wolf 2101 was recollared on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023, by Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The wolf was collared earlier in the month, but slipped the collar days later.
Jerry Neal/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

North Park rancher Greg Sykes said he has tried to do things the right way since wolves migrated across the boarder from Wyoming into the area near Walden.

He has kept an eye on the predators as they could be seen in the distance around the ranch he manages and got guardian dogs to watch over his cattle.

“I was that one rancher that said, ‘OK, they’re here. Let’s figure out how to get along,'” Sykes said. “That’s what I intended to do.”

Early on Monday, March 13, wolves killed one of his cattle dogs named Cisco, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Wildlife officials observed wolf tracks near the dog, which Sykes estimates was within about 30 yards of his house. CPW also has GPS tracking collar data showing wolves in the area when Sykes’ dog was killed.

A day later, wolves attacked another dog nearby, this time a family pet. While the dog survived the initial attack, it later needed to be put down due to its injuries, according to CPW spokesperson Travis Duncan.

“Wildlife officers found wolf tracks in the vicinity and GPS collar data for both incidents that also indicated wolves were in the area during the time the dogs were attacked,” Duncan said in an email.

CPW provides compensation for livestock guardian dogs killed by wolves, but not for animals that are considered pets. Payment is based on the “actual value of the property at the time and place of loss,” Duncan said.

Sykes said the attack on his dog happened around 4 a.m. Monday, shortly after he let the dogs out in the morning. When he went to call them to eat, two dogs that typically respond the best did not return.

Some of his larger guardian dogs had showed up at the house, which Sykes said was unusual, as they generally don’t appear until the sun comes up. Two more of his cattle dogs ran right into the house when he called — “another thing that was amuck.”

He then noticed a black figure against the snow.

“It was my dog,” Sykes said. “When I got out there, the second dog that I was looking for was laying with him … wouldn’t leave his side.”

Weeks after slipping a collar that was placed in early February, a wolf in northern Colorado was recollared on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023.
Jerry Neal/Colorado Parks and Wildlife

Sykes said he immediately called CPW, and local wildlife officers responded quickly and were “good to work with” in what was a traumatic situation.

CPW collared a pair of wolves in North Park in early February, but the tracker on a male wolf fell off days later. The agency tracked down and recollared Wolf 2101 on Feb. 18.

The wolves have been causing issues in North Park since December 2021, when a 500-pound heifer was killed and eaten by the pack that is believed to be Colorado’s first breeding pair in decades. Since then, other dogs and cattle have been attacked by the pack.

The area has been described as ground zero for wolf conflicts that ranchers fear will become common once wolves are reintroduced in the state by the end of this year. The CPW Commission will consider approval of a plan for wolf reintroduction in May.

Reintroduction stems from a 2020 ballot initiative that Colorado voters narrowly passed, though rural ranching communities in the state generally opposed it by wide margins. More than 63% of Routt County opposed reintroduction.

Sykes said he has seen wolf tracks around the ranch for about a year, but never as close to the house as they came earlier this week. Other than killing antelope, the wolves hadn’t really bothered him before. Now, he said he hasn’t slept past midnight since Monday.

“I stay up the whole time, and now everything I see, I got binoculars on it,” Sykes said. “I want to know where they are at.”

Moose used to frequent his haystack on the ranch, but Sykes said he doesn’t see them anymore.

Sykes said he believes the wolves collared in North Park have risen to the level of problem wolves, and this would be a case where CPW should step in and remove or kill them. He noted the wolves didn’t eat his dog and had killed an elk nearby that they didn’t appear to feed on.

“If they would have killed a calf Monday morning out in the field, I would feel like, ‘OK, I got to change my strategy,'” Sykes said. “This is my dog. This is family.” 

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.