Like many a puzzle before it, the conundrum on Conundrum Creek will be solved by being taken apart – literally.
Six cows that had wandered into a remote Colorado cabin and froze stiff will be sawed into pieces, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Bill Kight.
The pieces will then be spread throughout the surrounding forest, Kight told the Los Angeles Times. The method was designed to minimize the possibility of predators -- bears or mountain lions -- converging on a small area around the cabin and nearby hot springs. Such an occurrence might increase the chance of a human encounter.
The method was also designed to clear the cabin of the cows before they thawed.
Three ranch hands from the cows’ ranch and three Forest Service staff members set out for the cabin Thursday morning to begin the task; they were accompanied by three members of the news media. Wilderness rules restrict groups to 10 members, Kight said.
The crew will use serrated Wyoming saws, commonly used during large-animal hunts, to break down the cows.
The cows were discovered several weeks ago when two Air Force Academy cadets snowshoed to the cabin, high in the Rocky Mountains. The cows were apparently part of a herd that went missing in the fall.
Removing the animals’ large, frozen bodies posed a problem for forest officials because environmental restrictions bar them from using machinery of any kind to do so.
Flatbed trucks were also out of the question, because the cabin is eight miles from the nearest road. The brainteaser even had officials playing with the idea of using explosives to dislodge the cows or of burning down the cabin and its contents.
No action will be taken on the cabin, Kight said.
The cabin is near the Conundrum Hot Springs, an arduous hike from the Aspen area in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness area. The Forest Service is requesting that people not to go into the area or use the Conundrum Creek trail head or other access points to the Conundrum Spring for at least the next month.
For public health and safety reasons, Kight said.