Conundrum cows may be cut up, scattered |

Conundrum cows may be cut up, scattered

ASPEN – The U.S. Forest Service expects to make a decision this week about what to do about dead cows in a cabin near Conundrum Hot Springs southwest of Aspen.

An announcement is expected Wednesday, but Forest Service spokesman Bill Kight said Friday that the agency is leaning toward cutting the carcasses into pieces and scattering them in the woods.

Six dead cows were found in the cabin this spring, but there are more buried in the snow outside of the building. The agency isn’t sure how many animals are there, but 29 were reported missing by a rancher after they wandered off a grazing allotment in the adjacent Gunnison National Forest late last fall and apparently froze to death.

There had been talk of using fire to destroy the cabin and the dead animals, but that approach would require an environmental analysis by the agency, Kight said. Cutting the animals up and scattering them is quicker and easier.

Samples were taken recently from the cabin to check for the presence of asbestos, while samples from the hot springs were collected to check for contamination, but the results of the tests are not yet available, he said.

The hot springs, in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area, are a popular hiking destination, and the Forest Service is anxious to deal with the carcasses quickly. Kight said he didn’t know how far away from the hot springs the remains of the cows would need to be dragged, but agency officials have expressed concern that the dead animals could attract hungry bears coming out of hibernation.

Because the site is in a wilderness area, motorized and mechanized uses are banned, complicating removal of the carcasses.

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