DENVER (AP) — Three rangers and three ranchers headed up a mountain near Aspen on Thursday to carve up cattle found frozen in a cabin before the carcasses thaw and contaminate a popular hot springs nearby.
Bill Kight of the U.S. Forest Service said the group planned to cut up the remains and scatter them over a wide area in an effort to draw bears and mountain lions away.
"It would be like predators having a buffet," Kight said.
The cabin is located less than 100 feet from the Conundrum Hot Springs, a popular camping area and a nine-mile hike from the Aspen area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area.
Air Force Academy cadets snowshoeing in late March found the dead cattle in and around the cabin. Rangers believe the cows wandered into the structure during a snowstorm but couldn't get out.
Forest Service officials were trying to figure how to get rid of the dead animals before they defrost and decompose. They explored burning or blowing up the cabin with explosives but decided to cut up the carcasses instead.
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.