U.S. Forest Service
A survey crew on April 20 examines the cabin where six cows perished.
What to do with the carcasses of six cows inside a U.S. Forest Service cabin at 11,000 feet elevation? For the last month, officials mulled burning or blowing them, and the cabin, up; or hauling them out via cart or helicopter.
But on Thursday, a crew set out with a solution: saw off the pieces and then dispose of them in nearby woods in Colorado's White River National Forest, outside of Aspen.
The area along aptly named Conundrum Creek happens to also be within a federal wilderness area, which means no motorized vehicles to shuttle the team.
Instead, the crew left Thursday morning for the 8.5-mile hike up to the cabin, White River National Forest spokesman Bill Kight told msnbc.com. They'll stay overnight and hope to finish the job Friday.
The team includes employees of the rancher whose cattle apparently got stuck in the cabin last winter and then were too packed in to get out.
They'll be using a "Wyoming Saw" -- which looks like a beefed up hacksaw.
"For those who have hunted large animals such as elk, it is common knowledge that it takes sharp knives and what we call a Wyoming Saw to accomplish such a task," Kight said. "The Wyoming Saw breaks down into parts making it easier to pack into remote areas."
Burning or blowing up the cabin and carcasses was ruled out because it would take longer and officials want to remove the carcasses before they decompose and potentially foul the nearby creek as well as a hot springs.
Those options "would have required environmental assessment work and that’s not the fastest way to go,” Kight told the Aspen Daily News.
The cows were first discovered last March by backcountry hikers.
With the cabin a curiosity of sorts, hikers were urged to stay away for now given that bears and other animals might be feasting on the leftovers.
"Carcasses concentrated in one small area attracting predators and visitors to that area are of great concern to us," Kight told msnbc.com.
People should "not go into the area or use the Conundrum Creek trailhead or other access points to the Conundrum Spring for at least the next month," he added. "If people decide to ignore our request, and/or we deem it necessary for public health and safety to close the trail, then we will impose a closure."
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