ASPEN, Colo. The U.S. Forest Service might use explosives to dispose of a half-dozen frozen cows that died after getting stuck inside a cabin at 11,000 feet in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
Forest Service spokesman Steve Segin said Tuesday that rangers are worried about the high fire danger and discussed other solutions when they met Tuesday, including using helicopters or trucks.
Segin said using helicopters is too expensive and rangers are worried about using trucks in a wilderness area, where the government bars permanent improvements and tries to preserve the natural habitat.
Other options include burning the cabin and dragging the dead cows out with pack animals, he said.
Forest Service spokesman Brian Porter said rangers saw about six cows inside the cabin, and several dead cows lying around the building.
“There is a lot of snow, and it’s hard to determine how many cows are there,” Porter said.
Rangers met Tuesday and went over their options, but it could take several days to make a decision, he said. They are also trying to locate the rancher who lost the cows.
Segin said officials are concerned about water contamination in the nearby hot springs if the cows start decomposing during the thaw.
“Obviously, time is of the essence because we don’t want them defrosting,” Segin said.
The carcasses were discovered by two Air Force Academy cadets when they snow-shoed up to the cabin in late March. Rangers hiked up and verified the problem, then began discussing how to remove the dead animals. They believe the animals sought shelter during a snowstorm and got stuck.
The cabin is located near the Conundrum Hot Springs, a nine-mile hike from the Aspen area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. Time magazine rated it one of the 50 top authentic American experiences in 2008.
Segin said the Forest Service occasionally uses explosives to destroy carcasses of animals that can’t be retrieved.
“We’ve used them as a means of disposal to remove dead horses, elk and other animals in areas where it’s impossible to get them out,” he said.