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Cow cleanup begins at Conundrum Hot Springs
Warning: graphic content
Air Force Academy cadets snow-shoeing discovered dead cows at a popular camping spot near Aspen last month. Now rangers are moving and dismantling the cows by hand in the remote area.
From the Aspen Times:
A wilderness ranger and Forest Service volunteer began the grisly task Thursday of clearing cow carcasses from the most visible areas surrounding the Conundrum Hot Springs.
Andrew Larson, lead wilderness ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, and volunteer Alexandre Roy tied rope to two cows in various stages of decomposition and yanked them out of camping areas at the hot springs and into less visible spots in the woods. They pulled a third carcass from Conundrum Creek. Another cow was left where it died in the woods.
“It's really not going to be a pleasant place to camp for a while,” Larson said.
An unknown number of cows died last winter around Conundrum Hot Springs. They left a grazing allotment on the Crested Butte side of the high peaks, traveled over Coffee Pot Pass and into Conundrum Valley.
Six cows entered an old Forest Service cabin near the hot springs and froze to death. A seventh died just outside the cabin. Two others were a few hundred feet away. A tenth was in the creek just downstream from the popular hot springs. Larson found an 11th carcass Thursday. A significant amount of snow melted since he visited the site two weeks ago.
“I assumed we'd find a lot more,” Larson said.
The carcasses in the cabin provided the most gruesome and unsettling sight. Cows with hides in various shades of brown were laying next to one another. At first glance, one that collapsed in the doorway appeared to have a vacant stare. At closer inspection, its eyeball was missing.