Forest Service facing a cow conundrum

We have been discussing a variety of issues around moral philosophy on this blog lately, so here something a bit more earthy.
P.S. The evacuees from the Lower North Fork Fire and (human and cat) staying at our house went home Friday.

Forest Service facing a cow conundrum- here’s the link.

Carolyn Sackariason
Aspen Daily News Staff Writer

Six dead cows found last weekend in a U.S. Forest Service cabin at Conundrum Hot Springs will be blown up with explosives, officials said.

Cameron Harris and Marshall Kay, both 21, snowshoed to the hot springs last Saturday with a plan to spend the night in the cabin. But when Harris approached the small structure, he stared death in the face.

“When I walked to the entrance I saw a cow’s head,” Harris, an Air Force Academy cadet, said. “There were six dead cows that were frozen solid” lying inside the cabin.

“It was the last thing we expected,” added Harris.

Harris said he and Kay, who are both from Texas and are enrolled in the academy in Colorado Springs, said they made other sleeping arrangements on Saturday night.

“After the cow incident we hiked down a mile or two and put our tents on snow,” Harris said.

Brian Porter, who works in visitor information services for the Aspen ranger district for the Forest Service, said officials are unsure how the cows got there but speculate that they were part of a rancher’s herd that wandered off from Taylor Pass and walked a couple of miles into the Conundrum Valley for food and water.

“It’s a little hard to guess how they got there,” said Porter, who received a phone call this week informing him of the cow conundrum.

The cows, which had been tagged, probably went into the cabin seeking warmth and shelter during one of the first snowstorms this season, and then got stuck in there and starved to death.

Porter said he contacted Jim McBreen, lead blaster for the White River National Forest, who will at some point in the near future — after the snow melts and avalanche danger has subsided — hike up approximately eight miles to the cabin with explosives and equipment, attempt to pull the cows out and blow them up.

The animals will have to be taken care of before they thaw to ensure no water contamination occurs in the nearby hot springs, Porter said.

“We definitely have to do something,” he said.

Explosives are being used because the area is designated as wilderness and motor vehicles are not allowed.

“We are not exempt from the rules,” Porter said.

Forest Service spokesman Bill Kight said if the cows can’t be removed by a pulley system, the cabin — which is technically illegal to sleep in — also will be blown up.

“It’s been in the plans to remove the cabin anyway,” he said, but dragging the cows out “would be our first choice.”

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