How else to dispose of their carcasses in a remote Colorado wilderness?
Last month, two Air Force Academy cadets on snow shoes made a startling discovery: six dead, frozen cows are packed inside the ranger station. Other dead cows are scattered around the outside of the cabin, as well.
The Forest Service believes that the cows "sought shelter during a snowstorm and got stuck and weren't smart enough to find their way out."
It's bizarre and somewhat comical, but sad, too. How long did it take the cows to die inside the cabin? Did they die of thirst and starvation, or did they succumb to hypothermia? A mass of cows huddled together inside a cabin could potentially generate a lot of heat - but then again, winter weather in the high Rocky Mountains is extremely severe. It may not have been enough.
(And how big a mess did they leave, before they died?)
I'm also not convinced that the cows were too dumb to figure out how to leave. Presumably, the door to the cabin swings inward. One intrepid cow may have nudged it open, or it may already have been left open by earlier visitors (animal or human). Once inside, the cows no doubt closed the door behind them by accident. Cows are surprisingly intelligent animals, but they aren't very good at working with doorknobs.
Now the Forest Service has to figure out what to do with their carcasses. Once the spring thaw begins, the carcasses will begin to bloat, rot, and create a major health threat for the neighboring hot springs.
The cow-sicles could theoretically be hauled out with a helicopter one by one, but this option has been deemed too expensive. They could be driven out in trucks, but the Wilderness Area designation means that roads are unimproved, and trucks can be extremely damaging to the rough trails.
The abandoned cabin is apparently a loss, between its age and all the dead cows stuck inside. The Forest Service's current plan is to have some Rangers pack in explosives, and blow the whole thing up. Once dispersed in this fashion, the cows' remains will be quickly eaten by scavengers.
But they have to work fast… springtime is coming.