Tue April 17, 2012

Frozen Cows Present a Conundrum for Forest Service

The U.S. Forest Service is considering using explosives to dispose of a half-dozen frozen cows that died after getting stuck inside a cabin about nine miles from Aspen.

Snow and the area’s rugged terrain make retrieving the animals difficult.

As reported in the Aspen Daily News, the cows were discovered by two Air Force Academy cadets in late March when they snow-shoed up to the cabin, which is located at about 11,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. The animals apparently wandered in seeking shelter during a snowstorm.

Steve Segin, with the U.S. Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, says they’re concerned about simply leaving the carcasses to decompose in such a high-use recreation area.

“In the middle of the wilderness, alone, by themselves they may not pose that much of a problem,” Segin says. “But… the bears are waking up out of hibernation; animals are going to naturally want to scavenge these carcasses. So the best thing to do is remove those carcasses, and/or find ways to speed up their decomposition process.”

Segin says using explosives would be one of the safest and least expensive ways to do just that. The agency is mulling several options, including burning the cabin, which he says is not a historic building.  There isn’t a firm deadline for the agency to decide on how to proceed according to Segin.

The cabin is located near the Conundrum Hot Springs – a nine-mile hike from Aspen in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass wilderness area. In 2008, Time magazine rated it one of the 50 top authentic American experiences.

Note - click the audio link above the story to hear more from Steve Segin about how they think the cows got there, what options the Forest Service is considering, and why people around the world are interested in this story.