‘Worth Two Or Three Cowboys’: Owner, Neighbors Mourn Cisco, Cattle Dog Killed By Wolves

Cattle dogs are valuable working animals, and “Cisco” left a big hole in his owners’ hearts when he was killed by wolves from Colorado’s North Park wolf pack. They said he was worth "two or three cowboys."

Mark Heinz

March 21, 20235 min read

Cisco 5

Cattle dogs aren’t mere pets, they’re valuable working animals that can cost as much as $2,000 and render priceless service in their ranch duties.

And Cisco was a standout among cattle dogs, says a Colorado resident who knew him.

“The dog was worth at least two or three cowboys on horseback the way it could get cattle to go where they should. The dog was always ready, eager, willing and able to assist with moving cattle,” Morrison Heth told Cowboy State Daily.

He’s a neighbor of Donna and Greg Sykes, who lost Cisco to wolves from Colorado’s North Park pack March 13.

Donna said Cisco was, without a doubt, an invaluable asset to their cattle ranch, but he was so much more than that. 

“Cisco was a much-loved and big part of our family. His loss left us with broken hearts,” she told Cowboy State Daily.

Blaze, the family pet dog of another of the Sykes’ neighbors, the Gollobiths, was attacked the next day and hurt so severely that he had to be euthanized, she said.

“They are also suffering and hurt from the loss,” Donna said. 

Working cattle dogs are much more than family pets. They can coast as much as $2,000 and be invaluable help on a ranch, say Wyoming wildlife and ranching experts. Above are Blaze and Cisco, a pair of working cattle dogs in Colorado. Both were recently killed as the result of wolf attacks. (Courtesy Photos)

No Small Thing

Since being reintroduced to the Yellowstone region in the mid-1990s, wolves have on several occasions killed dogs in Wyoming, including pets, hunting hounds and working cattle dogs, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports.

The loss of a cattle dog is no small thing, Dennis Sun, a veteran Wyoming rancher and publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, told Cowboy State Daily. A well-trained cattle dog can cost as much as $2,000.

“Cattle dogs can make the difference between getting a job done or not,” he said. “They just make whatever you’re doing easier, especially the good dogs.”

He realizes the implications of Cisco’s death to his family and the ranch, both in practical and emotional terms.

“That was a bad situation there,” Sun said.  

No Amount Of Money Can Replace Him

The North Park wolf pack was established in 2021 by wolves that migrated from Wyoming. The pack’s lead female traveled more than 400 miles from the Yellowstone region.

The North Park pack is Colorado’s only established wolf pack so far, but the state plans to reintroduce about 50 more wolves, starting by the end of this year.  

A calf was reported killed in Jackson County, Colorado, by the North Park pack in December 2021. Several cattle have been reported killed by wolves in area since then. Colorado ranchers can apply for compensation for animals – including working cattle dogs – killed by wolves. 

The Sykes have applied for compensation for Cisco’s death, but it’s about more than the money for them. 

“Greg and I have completed the 10-Day notification of damage for CPW (Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department),” Donna said. “We received written statements from breeders and the veterinary that cared for Cisco since he was a pup estimating his value. 

“We fully know what Cisco was worth as a working dog, but the value does not take into consideration his loving loyalty to Greg and I.”

Taking Action

Donna added that they’ve been in contact with an attorney, as well as Colorado’s Republican U.S. Rep. Lauren Boebert, in an effort to have federal endangered species protection removed for wolves in Colorado. Under ESA protection, wolves may not be killed in the state.

Wolves in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho are no longer under ESA protection. They are managed by the states and may be hunted. In Wyoming’s “predator zone,” which comprises about 85% of the state – including along the Colorado state line – wolves may be shot on sight year-round.

“We have collected letters and pictures from all ranchers in Jackson County that have suffered losses of livestock and dogs. All this information is going to Lauren Boebert in her efforts to delist the wolf from the ESL,” Donna said.   

Pushback Is No Surprise

Coloradoans’ souring attitudes toward wolves should come as no surprise, Sun said. 

Proposition 114, which authorized the reintroduction of more wolves to Colorado, barely squeaked by Nov. 3, 2020, by a vote of 50.91% to 49.09%.  

“I think now, if they held another vote on it, the majority of Colorado voters would say they don’t want wolves,” Sun said. “They’re going to have problems with wolves, just like Wyoming has had. And maybe more, because there’s more people in wolf country down there.”

Meanwhile, the Center For Biological Diversity is threatening a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service. 

The group claims that the Forest Service should ban the killing of wolves that cross the state line from Colorado and into the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest in Wyoming.

In an attempt to mitigate conflicts, the CPW plans to put a “buffer zone” of at least 60 miles between wolf reintroduction sites and the state lines of Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, as well a sovereign Native American tribal lands. 

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter