Dead Cow in back entrance of Stillhouse Cave, WV

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Dead Cow in back entrance of Stillhouse Cave, WV

Postby MUD » Aug 5, 2007 12:12 pm

Does anyone have any ideas what to do with a dead cow lying at the bottom of the back entrance to Stillhouse? Could we put lime on it? Is there anything that would get rid of the carcass short of physically removing it? It's lying in a stinkin' nastiness and needs some attention....anybody want to help?

Also need to re-do the covering of that entrance so no more cows fall in....mebbe some locust logs with a plyboard cover or somethin'? I'll bet farmer Joe isn't too happy with losing a cow in that hole! We gotta do somethin' there folks....whose in???
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Postby JamesCrouch » Aug 5, 2007 12:44 pm

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Postby tncaver » Aug 5, 2007 4:42 pm

If the cow has already deteriorated, the best way to address the issue
is to either put lime on it and wait or just WAIT until it has decomposed
to the point that it doesn't smell any more. The amount of time could
vary considerably depending on how many flies have laid eggs in it.
The more the better. Lots of maggots will quickly remedy the cow less
stinky. You may be surprised how quick it will quit smelling. But it will
likely take over a month for such a big animal.
As for the entrance....I highly suggest you put a small amount of fencing
around it. Plywood on locust may give way when a cow or human stands
on it. A few fence posts and some welded wire will block off the hole and
you can put in a gate made of fence wire that is easy for humans to get
through. I have one around my deck to keep raccoons off the deck. Fence
posts can be driven into dirt easily with a hand sledge.
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Postby bill fish » Aug 5, 2007 11:05 pm


just a quick thought or 2

I have no idea if this cave is something great or one of a hundred pud holes in the area

But you might wanna consider this....

The farmer lost a an entrance to the cost him money...and who knows...maybe even as a farmer he had an attachment to said cow...

If some sorta thing happened in my neck of the woods I'd do 2 things...

First....offer the farmer some money now dead cow.....take up a collection if neccessary....and you might not get up a enough money to actually replace the cow....and there is even a fair chance the farmer would reject it....

Buttt...if done in a reasonably respectable not making the farmer feel like some poor hick that needs handouts.....that farmer WILL remember that gracious offer....and probably tell all the farmer friends about it...

It also lets the farmer know that cavers realize that caves are not generally a positive for non caving cave owners and that cavers are willing to shoulder those cost because THEY get the benifits.....

just a thought

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Postby Ron Fulcher » Aug 6, 2007 6:36 am

I would suggest not using any lime since this would be a caustic mess at the carcass sight and furhter downstream. PH?? Whether or not a cave is pleasant for human visitation should not be the question but rather the cave has received a large influx of food and all the little critters around will be making use of the nutrients for some time to come. I would suspect the odor will be there for a quite a while longer then a month. We had a dead coyote in one entrance that still cast an odor after a year.

As far as covering or fencing the natural entrance, it would be best to leave it completely unimproved but, the economic impact on the farmer would be too high. So to compromise (4) 16' long steel cattle panels and (8) steel fence posts set in a square around the entrance would allow any bats to enter unhindered but keep the cattle from wandering in for years to come. Of course if the size is too small just get more panels and they do not break down like roll fencing when being crossed by humans to get in the cave. Tractor Supply Co. also has these staples like clamps for the fence and once assembled they are quite strong, just a few thoughts..

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Postby thermopyle » Aug 6, 2007 7:23 am


We ran into Ol' Bessy yesterday. We had three small children in tow and had to stand in that pile of guts and bones while we passed the children over us, one to another, so they didn't have to touch it.

Just the smell had all three crying and wailing through the whole back passage, not wanting to smell it anymore, and dreading the thought of seeing it once they climbed the little staircase creek there. It took a lot of coaxing to get them to go forward.

The only thing that suggests itself, given the advanced state of decomposition (it's really just a pile of stinking skin guts and bones now, melting its way around the boulder and stinking up the whole cave) is bagging it up, hauling it out, and burning your gloves. The stink is still stuck in my nostrils and I'm still smelling it today after two showers and a bath in Gandy Creek. I can still smell it in Paw Paw!

I'd say just leave it there to rot another year, but I get the idea that a lot of 'future cavers' (ie: kids) do that cave and will probably never want to cave again after that treat to the senses. I'm all for helping you haul that out if I can manage another drive down.
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Postby Scott McCrea » Aug 6, 2007 7:33 am

Don't forget another possibility... the farmer tossed the dead cow in the hole to get rid of it. Disease, lightning or aliens could have killed the cow. Instead of digging a hole to dispose of the cow, he used the hole he already has.

I dug open a cave in VA when I was in high school where we removed at least 6 cow skeletons. As nasty as it may be, it is a fairly common way to get rid of dead animals. The farmer might be quite ill if the cow suddenly shows up again.
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Postby thermopyle » Aug 6, 2007 8:52 am

Below picture is what the hole looks like (picture ganked off the web somewhere). 10 feet below that guy is the dead cow.

The problem with putting a heavy gate there is that most people won't be entering this hole, but trying to climb up out of it, having entered the cave at the big entrance and done a whole through-trip.

It's a slippery vertical shaft and having to lift a gate while climbing it would stop most people if they didn't expect it to be there, and didn't go move it before-hand. You'd have some falls and maybe injuries there from some mud-covered fellah who didn't expect the gate and just travelled the whole cave from the other side, expecting a few easily-moved sticks at the end.

I can't imagine the landowner tossing the cow down there, knowing the amount of summer-camps and youth groups that have used those two caves (Gandy and Stillhouse) as conservation classrooms for untold years, (unless someone really made him mad). Kids go through there all the time, and he's surely seen and given permission to bus-loads of them over the years.

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Postby MUD » Aug 6, 2007 2:25 pm

I talked to a buddy of mine just last night who was at Stillhouse over the weekend. He confirmed Thermopyle's description and feels it would be better to just let it be and leave the cave "absorb" it. After all it is the back entrance and not needed to see the cave. It is true alot of groups use the entrance as it provides a nice little through trip. The fencing idea sounds great....I'll cover the expense of it....question is, who owns that land? Is it the National Forest? Do any of you WV cavers know? Anyone know? My 4 1/2 year old son has done 4 through trips in that cave! Every year durig OTR we take the kids through both Stillhouse and the Sinks....they LOVE it! I guess this year we'll just do a quick stream tour.

BTW....the cow was alive when it fell in....a friend had a girlscout group in there about 6 weeks ago and found the cow, legs stretched in front, mucous and blood dripping from it's nose, mooing up a storm. They turned around and went the whole way back through the cave and overland to the back entrance where they found there was no possible way they were getting the cow out! They went to the nearest farm and told farmer joe....guess it wasn't his cow...or they couldn't get it out and just left it!

When I find out ownership I'll see if they'll allow me to install a fence with stile for cavers. Gotta keep the caves OPEN! :grin:
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Postby wendy » Aug 6, 2007 3:04 pm

ya sometimes its just best to let nature take it's course. This in turn supplies food to organisms in the cave.
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Postby icave » Aug 6, 2007 5:58 pm

:sarcasm: Who knows, maybe someday a creationist will tell us it was washed in by a great flood.

Sorry for the remark...I just couldn't resist in light of another recent thread... :mad2:
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Postby graveleye » Aug 7, 2007 8:22 am

icave wrote::sarcasm: Who knows, maybe someday a creationist will tell us it was washed in by a great flood.

Sorry for the remark...I just couldn't resist in light of another recent thread... :mad2:

good grief, let it go. Please.
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Postby Lost » Aug 7, 2007 3:45 pm

icave wrote::sarcasm: Who knows, maybe someday a creationist will tell us it was washed in by a great flood.

Sorry for the remark...I just couldn't resist in light of another recent thread... :mad2:
Good Job Someone had to say it. :exactly:
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Postby MoonshineR DavE » Aug 8, 2007 6:22 pm

Mud if ya need some help building that fence just let me know an I'll be there. Living on a farm myself I have the fencing tools.
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Postby adleedy » Aug 8, 2007 8:14 pm

ill be there too, just let us know man. ill be happy to help
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