HOWTO: "Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives"

As the Forest Service makes ready to explode a cabinfull of frozen cows, we could all benefit from refreshing our frozen livestock explosion know-how with this official USDA Forest Service memo, "Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives."

The following examples illustrate partial obliteration (dispersion) for a horse that weighs about 1,100 pounds (453.6 kilograms). In the first example, urgency is not a factor. Perhaps a few days are expected before the public is to visit the area, or perhaps bears will not be attracted to the carcass. In any case, in this example, dispersion is acceptable. [Figure 1]

Place 3 pounds (1.36 kilograms) of explosives under the carcass in four locations (Figure 1). The carcass can then be rolled onto the explosives if necessary.

Place 1 pound (.45 kilograms) of explosives in two locations on each leg.

Use detonator cord to tie the explosives charges together.

Use water bags to hold the explosives close to the carcass if it is impractical to place charges under the carcass, for example when the carcass is laying in water.

Horseshoes should be removed to minimize dangerous flying debris.

Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives (via JWZ)


  1. This exactly the advice my grandmother gave me:  “Always remove the horseshoes before blowing up the horse.”

    I always do, Grandma. I always do.

    1. I guess they’re not so worried about the hooves, though.
      I wouldn’t want to get nailed between the eyes with one of those, either!

        1. If I’m going to be impaled by a flying exploded unicorn part, I’d much rather it be the horn than, say, a random leg bone. Like anybody would believe you that it was a unicorn if you had a mere leg bone sticking out of your abdomen.

  2. That’s going to make a mess, and it’s going leave several  100 lb chunks over a fairly small area.  Now a couple pounds of C4 would send Mr. Ed into low earth orbit. 

      1. But in this case the cows are frozen.
        Aside: What /is/ it with the US and guns and blowing stuff up? Just leave them there, or dig a big hole. What could you possibly expect to gain from blowing them up that can’t be gained by just doing nothing?

        1. Cory covered this in a previous post (the first link in this post). The cowsicles are stuck in a building. They want to reduce the cows to manageable chunks so they can get them out of there before they rot. Rotting cow would contaminate hot springs; the conservation rules in that area don’t allow bringing in trucks.

          1. Yes, I know, and I read that earlier article. But it just doesn’t answer the question. The building is going to be rooted either way – leaving them in there to thaw and rot is going to make the hut uninhabitable for sure, but blowing up several cows(?) inside is NOT going to be good for it. And I fail to see how scattering numerous small bits of cow across the countryside is going to make any difference in terms contaminating the spring.

        2. Frozen flesh is still soft compared to things like rock or steel, so there’s no need to make use of the highest of the high explosives to disperse it.

          As to why this is a good idea in the first place: among other things, big dead rotting things are disease vectors and tend to draw scavengers, which in the USA includes bears.  Bears who become habituated to people have an unfortunately elevated chance of attacking them.   Ergo, if there’s a chance bears and people are both going to be around a carcass, the path of wisdom is to disperse or obliterate the carcass before such issues present themselves.  Of course, it takes far less manpower to pack in a few tens of pounds of dynamite than it would to dig a grave big enough for a dead horse and deep enough to keep bears off it, so budget-conscious land management agencies favor the former.

          Regarding the whole bears-humans thing, it’s worth checking out an article Ms. Jardin pointed at back on April 3: Jennifer Grose’s “A Death in Yellowstone”.

          1. “As to why this is a good idea in the first place: among other things, big dead rotting things are disease vectors and tend to draw scavengers, which in the USA includes bears. ”

            Thousands of small dead rotting pieces aren’t?

        3. (Replying to this note again, because we’re in too deep for the one I’m actually replying to to have a “Reply” button…)

          Re: “Thousands of small dead rotting pieces aren’t?”: a large number of small pieces scattered over a large area get policed up by birds and insects and the like relatively quickly.  Go past “disperse” to “obliterate” and aerosolized stuff gets scattered widely to soak into the ground, where various aerobic reducers can get at it.  (As opposed to the anaerobic ones spreading out from the gut of an intact carcass.  Bear in mind that anaerobic decay is usually more pungent.)  That way, there isn’t a single big rotting mass that’ll last for the multiple days it takes for a big scavenger to smell it and stroll over from tens of miles away.

          Of course, we’re speaking somewhat at cross-purposes.  The document “Obliterating Animal Carcasses with Explosives” covers dispersing or obliterating a carcass sitting out in the open; there’s one set of reasons why rangers may want to do that.  The frozen cows in the cabin aren’t slated to be dispersed or obliterated, at least not at first; they’re due to be broken into smaller pieces so they can be removed, and there’s a different set of reasons to do that.  (Explosives may be used to cut rather than shatter and scatter widely; see Wikipedia: Linear shaped charges.)

          1. Thanks for the explanations. I see tons (literally?) of deer and other animal carcasses along the highway on the way to work every morning. Either Michigan can’t afford to scoop them up anymore, or I just never noticed until recent years how many of the damn things are always decomposing on road shoulders.

            That’s part of what made me wonder about this situation. If it’s okay to have deer carcasses every half mile along the road (maybe it isn’t), is it that much worse to leave some cow carcasses in/near national forest? 
            My area is not in bear country though, and contaminated ditches would be different from contaminated hot springs.If this hot spring is some kind of commercial venture near the national forest, should dead animals be cleaned up or should commercial ventures think twice about opening near national forests where bears live and big animals die? I realize they were cows that died, so it’s one commercial problem that leaked into a public area, but this same situation could have played out with dead elk, moose, deer, bears.

  3. Nobody has mentioned the infamous exploding whale fiasco yet? I would have thought that would have been the first comment.

  4. So my prior conjecture in the previous thread wasnt’ too far off. I still say that with speed in mind, explosive cutting of the corpse into manageable pieces via det cord wouldn’t be impractical, particularly with frozen corpses, but I can see how this method would be better for just obliterating the corpse. Not enough boom to do damage to the terrain, but plenty enough to blow the corpse (and nothing else) to bits and mist.

  5. Best sentence: “Total obliteration might be preferred in situations where the public is expected in the area the next day, or where bears are particularly prolific.”

  6. I still don’t understand the purpose. They want to prevent hot springs in (near?) a national forest from being contaminated by remains of rotting animals. What better place for animals to rot than in a national forest? I’m sure hot springs are different, but how many animals small or large are currently rotting in rivers, creeks, lakes? Fish, frogs. Are there secret crews that pull deer corpses out of these things so the bodies of water are not contaminated, or dead black bears that have been wounded by Ted Nugent but were able get away before dying? Is it all about the size of the body of water, the ratio of rotting meat to water volume? The larger the body of water, the fewer parts per million of poop or rotten blood and meat your toddler is likely to be wading in and swallowing.  

    Fish and animals poop in that water too. Is that contamination? I always assumed that nature more or less filtered out natural contaminants. But maybe I’m idealizing nature too much.

  7. Sounds like a waste to me. Surely the guys at the weapons labs can think of a practical use for a cabinful of frozen cows-  I mean, we need to know what happens when a frozen cow traveling at 600 MPH impacts a reactor containment vessel,  or what happens when you hit a stationary frozen cow with block of aluminum traveling at 3 km/s.

    1.  Or an experiment to test the belief that two cows hitting head on at 60mph produces the same damage as one cow hitting a brick wall at 120mph.

  8. Good advice.  A freak winter hit us a long time ago. It was 40 degrees below zero and we were struggling to survive.  We couldn’t even make it out to the barn, where  an ex of one our brothers was housing her horse, meaning she left it for us to take care of, she was such a piece of shit.  Honestly, we just forgot about the poor thing.  It froze solid.  Don’t ask how we disposed of it.  Dynamite would have been great, but we only had chainsaws.

  9. Curious about the numbers. Saying “About 1100 pounds” and then converting to metric to 1/10 precision is careless. Just round the conversion off too.

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