All’s quiet at Conundrum |

All’s quiet at Conundrum

A sign the Conundrum Hot Springs trailhead outside of Aspen offers a warning about conditions and the potential for bears. The photo of the bear, however, was not taken at the hot springs.

ASPEN – A Forest Service wilderness ranger found another cow carcass Thursday near Conundrum Hot Springs, southwest of Aspen, but there was little evidence of bear activity in the area.

The agency intends to leave the hot springs open to the public, at least for now, with a sign already posted at the trailhead to warn hikers about conditions at the springs and the potential for bears and other wildlife that may be attracted by the carcasses. It is an 8.5-mile hike to Conundrum from the Aspen side.

“I guess our encouragement for folks at this point is, be aware that there is cow feces around the springs area and there are carcasses around the springs,” said Scott Snelson, Aspen-Sopris District ranger. “We just want folks to know, it’s a little less sanitary than it is normally.”

Samples of water taken from the hot springs and the creek below were collected Thursday for testing, but results won’t be available before Monday at the earliest, Snelson said.

The carcasses remain in the vicinity after a forest ranger and volunteers hiked to the hot springs early this month to deal with 11 dead cows found in the area. Some were in the designated campsites around Conundrum Hot Springs and inside an old cabin less than a half-mile from the springs. One was in the creek below the springs. The animals were among 29 lost last fall; they belonged to a rancher on the Crested Butte side of the mountains.

Carcasses found in the creek and campsites were hauled away, into the woods. Friends of the rancher were to cut up the cows that froze in the cabin and scatter the pieces in the woods.

Forest Service officials expected the remains to attract hungry black bears coming out of hibernation, but they apparently haven’t moved up to the 11,200-foot elevation of the springs yet.

“The bears really haven’t been in there to any meaningful extent yet,” Snelson said. “It’s a strange year. It’s hard to predict, but we think it’s going to be a few weeks before there are human-bear interactions.”

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