Forest Service contemplates exploding remote cabin full of dead frozen cows before they thaw

An AP story describes a plan to explode a group of frozen cow-carcasses in a remote mountain cabin in Colorado. The cows, which were roaming free in Gunnison National Forest, were caught in a cold snap and sought shelter in the cabin. Now that the thaw is coming, there is no easy way of getting them out of their frozen death-chamber. If the cows are allowed to thaw and decompose, they could contaminate the forest's hot-springs; and bringing in trucks would violate the forest's preservation rules. The plan, then, is to explode the cows while they are still frozen, turning them into manageable frozen chunks that can be more readily removed.

Carroll praised the Forest Service for trying to remove the animals while doing the least damage. He said burning down the cabin or packing out the carcasses are probably the best solutions.

"They need to use the minimal tool to get the job done. They don't want to leave the land scarred," he said.

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.

Forest Service Considers Blowing Up Frozen Cows That Died Inside Of A Colo. Mountain Cabin

(Image: Cold water fountain, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from sbeebe's photostream) (via JWZ)



    1. Seriously, they’d better get some 1080p cameras up there because the Oregon whale exploding video just doesn’t cut it in this HD age.
      Another upside – Cabin in the Woods 2 where teens are tormented by the ghosts of exploded cattle. Hollywood – call me.

  1. Hey, this just like the problem with the candle and the tacks!  Except with cows.

    Answer is the same though: burn it down.  All of it.

  2. The sad thing is, I’d been thinking of visiting that cabin at some point, and now, even if they do manage to get the cows out without destroying it, I’m pretty sure I don’t want to stay there – that might just weird me out too much.

  3. If they stuff it full of like a thousand frozen pigs first, they can probably sell a whole bunch of those super-bacon cheeseburgers to Tokyo.

    1.  Chainsaws and a weather report.  Hike in with gear about a day after the thaws start.  Cut up the dead cows when they are still a bit solid but not totally frozen like a rock.  I do this with steak and chicken when I need slices.

      1. Chainsaw Chicken sounds a little over-the-top, but I suppose if you’re only cooking for one…

  4. Surely they could hire a couple butchers to solve the problem.  I think they have some experience dealing with frozen beef.

    1. I was thinking a heavy lift helicopter.  Not sure why they just can’t move the whole thing to a safe/new location and deal with it there.  Obviously if they are going to blow it up it’s not like they need the cabin.

      1. I, too, was thinking a chopper. But they mention not being able to use trucks (which sounds more like a roads / logistics problem) and claim it’s actually due to preservation rules, so maybe the rules are just THAT strict?

        Or maybe they’re trying to save money? If they don’t already have access, a heavy lift copter can be expensive to procure, even for a day or two.

        1. Yeah, the cost is the issue.  They physically could do it, but they don’t have the resources.  They briefly touched on that in one of the news stories I read.  It’s an option on the table, but an expensive one, so the top two plans are currently “blow shit up” and “burn stuff down.”

  5. I love how bringing in trucks to remove the carcasses would violate the forest’s preservation rules, but it’s perfectly fine to let ranchers graze their livestock on these supposedly pristine public lands. Our government is run by idiots.

    1. …and exploding a whole cabin full of cows is OK too. I love the idea that laws should be followed blindly without caring for common sense.

    2. Well… it depends on what kind of forest it is in question. For instance, butterflies need meadows. As cows aren’t let out in the free to graze means no more meadows, which in turn means that the population of butterflies has gone down dramatically. This is a big problem in my country, so to combat this there are some areas where trees are cut down and cows and sheep are brought in to work as nature’s own butterfly conservationists.

      And… what kind of damage do you think small herds of cows would do to a forest? That’s how it used to be in the olden days in my country.

      1. “…trees are cut down and cows and sheep are brought in to work as nature’s own butterfly conservationists.”

        You have an odd view of what constitutes conservation. Herds of grazing livestock have a destructive impact on any natural ecosystem.

        1. *Pushes up glasses*
          Actually, where do you think our domesticated animals came from? They are all domesticated versions of wild animals. Many natural ecosystems depend on grazing animals entirely for their continued existence. In the absence of fire, ungulates are nature’s main way of settling into meadow/savannah-based ecosystems. There are many forested savannahs around the world, and thus lots of semi-natural ecosystems where the natural grazers have been pushed out by past land usage. In these cases (which are nowhere near as few as some would assume), the main management recommendation made by conservationists is to introduce domesticated grazers at a natural density to prevent the development of an understory structure which would not have been found in the original pristine state.

          I have no clue where CH is from, but I would guess the conservationists in his/her area are doing just that.

          I say this as a conservationist/forester specializing in forested savannahs.

          1.  This.

            I don’t know the area, but even odds “pristine” actually means “had a complex relationship with agriculture and/or humans for a thousand years”.

    3. “Idiots”

      From the article:

      The cabin is located near the Conundrum Hot Springs, a nine-mile hike from the Aspen area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area.

      There’s your large truck problem…

      The Forest Service said Tuesday the animals came from a herd of 29 cows that went missing last fall from the nearby Gunnison National Forest where the rancher had a permit. An aerial search failed to turn up any sign of the animals.

      That answers your letting ranchers graze on pristine lands part..

    4. Wow 7 likes still, despite this being a completely *idiotic* comment.  Don’t let your rabid, anti government ideology get in the way of…you…know…pesky facts.. and stuff…..anti intellectualism ftw!

    5. Er . . . how is cattle grazing a problem with forest preservation?  Many types of forest include large browsers as part of their ecosystem.  Now, if they were allowing GOATS to graze, that would be a problem.  If they were allowing UNLIMITED  numbers of cattle to graze, that would be a problem.

      But a limited number of cattle?  Beneficial part of some ecosystems.

  6. Idea:  Volunteer butchers ride up with volunteer dog teams and slaughter the frozen cattle, then return with all the packaged meat via the dog sleds. Hold a charity dinner featuring the frozen on the hoof cattle meat (certified by local health officers to be in a healthy condition) to raise funds for a feed the hungry program in Denver.

  7. That the trail manager should choose to ‘disappear’ the problem with explosives shows how much we have evolved since the 1970’s – not friggin’ much.

    Another idea in line with the Park’s Natural Session of the Ecosystem policy – a public relations campaign: “Don’t take the trail to the cabin, wolves are feeding there.”

  8. This probably also has to do with the fact that the Forest Service would rather not have a cabin there. It was probably built a long time ago and thus “grandfathered” into the current management plan. My experience with many of these types of officials is that they really don’t like having to deal with any type of man-made feature in “their” forest.

    Seriously, I’m sure any competent rancher would deal with this by hiring some roughnecks with chainsaws and bringing in a few pack horses. Total cost about $500.


    1. I don’t know about your national forests, but at least in the ones in my country it’s not unusual to have cabins for hikers and also the forest care takers to take shelter in.

    2. It was clever of them to lure those cows in there………darned scheming, devious park rangers..

  9. I don’t know anything about anything, but I’m wondering what’s so all-fired toxic about a dozen animals expiring and rotting out there in nature where they’ve done so ever since there were animals to expire in nature?  How in God’s name is that going to pollute the hot springs any more than the fecal matter those same animals were dropping all over the area before they died?  Or the untold zillions of squirrels, birds, bugs, and other varmints whose rotting carcasses have littered that area ever since, well, ever?

    What, are they radioactive or something?

    1.  A cow is about half a ton.

      Twenty cows, so that’s TEN TONS of rotting meat.

      Spread out over a few square miles, it wouldn’t be an issue, but all in one place that’s some serious pollution.

  10. here’s thoughts on how it would work out

  11. So is said cabin in a canyon and were any of the bovines named “Clementine”? With visions of the Donner party members spinning in their graves and… Are W, Cheney and Rummie up for another shock and awe event?  Say, sponsored by KFC to counter Chik-Fil-A marketing?  What about the “Got Cow?” app for children?  Can’t any of them be saved?  ; )

    1. In a cabin
      Near Conundrum
      Seeking shelter from the storm
      Came a herd of shiv’ring cattle
      Wanting only to get warm

  12. What gives us the right?  Maybe they’re trying cryo so they can be awakened in the future when cattle rule Earth.

  13. More and more, after having actually read the article since my last comment (guilty as charged!), I’m thinking that with a bit of context we might make some sense of this.

    So you’re hiking into the mountains. You’ve got frozen cows to get rid of. You want to do it cheap, quick, and easy. A chopper is expensive, and only moves the carcasses. Trucks can’t make the trip. So you have to go in on foot (or get air dropped with a smaller chopper, but again, cost).

    What are you gonna wanna bring with you as a hiker in the mountains? A chainsaw? With enough fuel for an unknown number of large bovine corpses? That’ll be rather heavy to hike with. So… handtools? No way are you gonna get the job done quickly with hatchets or handsaws, the corpses are frozen stiff.

    But you know what’s cheap, lightweight, and technically an explosive? Det-cord. Grab a reel of that, some blasting caps, and you’re set. Hike out to the cabin, wrap the cows in cord such that it works as cutting charges, maybe drive some cord or caps into boreholes in the heavier sections of the corpse, and boom – literally. Then just collect the pieces and dispose of them wherever is appropriate.

    Explosives don’t always mean giant clouds of fire – in fact most of the time they don’t. It’s easy to hear that they’re gonna explode the corpses and just assume that means they’re gonna drop 50 kilos of dynamite in the cabin and vaporize it and the beef. People tend to have a poor ability to judge the power of common explosives, and tend to assume even small amounts are going to make giant clouds of death. But the truth of it is that proper knowledge and careful measurement can turn a few grams of explosives into a fast, efficient, and reasonably safe tool for small jobs where, believe it or not, precision is desired that can’t be achieved WITHOUT explosives for the same amount of time or effort.

    1. So, wait.  You’re trying to suggest that maybe people who do this for their job, who’ve got experience doing this, who’ve done this before, might have better ideas about how to go about this than a random bunch of boingboing posters?

  14. I wanna do this! Or, at the very last, I want a business card that reads “Bovine Demolition Expert.”

  15. my old national park trail crew friends used to tell tales of blowing up dead mules so the bears wouldn’t get used to the taste.
    We spent a week with them once in the Sierra back country. supplies came in on foot, by mule or by a cable under a helicopter.  The latter was the wildest; the helicopter wasn’t allowed to land, but a small area on a cliff was cleared and a working pad put together. I bet you wouldn’t find a trace of it today.

  16. They did an interview with a forest service guy on npr radio (not up on the web yet). Pollution is one problem; they also are worried about attracting bears so close to the hiking trails.  The speaker mentioned several possibilities, including just closing those trails for a while, burning, or exploding, but indicated burning was the most likely. He mentioned exploding is tricky because it is hard to ensure the pieces are the optimal size for scavenger animals to be interested (which is the goal, to speed up nature by making more, smaller pieces, not to obliterate). Also, if I understood correctly,  he mentioned that animal disposal is a common issue and they have experience with this. It’s just this story is more interesting.

    1. You’ve obviously never seen cows outside on a cold, windy day. They’ll huddle behind a telephone pole if that’s the only form of shelter. They’re not stupid, despite what people think of them. They do have the sense to get in out of the weather, if possible – especially the wind. They don’t need to be sentient to know it will kill them.

  17. Roll a giant boulder in front of the door on a Friday. There’s a chance the cows might be gone by the following Monday.

  18. good lord, people.
    it’s winter.
    you try a colorado high country winter and then judge.
    it;s not just crazy cold, colorado winters are also warm and sensual.
    could drive anyone to blow some dead cows up.

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