NORWAY (USA Today) – More than 300 reindeer were killed by lightning during a storm in Norway on Friday.
On Sunday, the Norwegian Environment Agency released photos of reindeer bodies strewn across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau.
According to the agency, 323 animals will killed during the lightning storm.
Agency spokesman Kjartan Knutsen told AP that reindeer often huddle together during bad weather, which is likely why so many were killed during the storm.
Knutsen told AP it’s not uncommon for reindeer to be killed by lightning, “but we have not heard about such numbers before.”
Some 10,000 reindeer migrate to the area each year, according to Norwegian Environmental Agency.
Norwegian Nature Inspectorate Knut Nylend told Norwegian news agency, NTB, that samples from the reindeer were sent to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute to confirm how the animals died.
“We’ve heard about animals being struck by lightning and killed, but I don’t remember hearing about lightning killing animals on this scale before. We don’t know if it was one or more lighting strike,” Nylend told NTB.
Here in the U.S., a case worse than this was reported in 1939 in Utah, when 835 sheep were killed by a single lightning strike:
“Lightning hit and killed 835 sheep that had been bedded down on the night on the top of the Pine Canyon in the Raft River Mountains of Box Elder County in northwestern Utah,” according the 1996 book Utah’s Weather And Climate.
The book goes on: “Rain from a passing thunderstorm wet the ground and sheep, causing the lightning’s electrical discharge to move completely through the herd of female sheep and lambs. The next morning, fifteen sheep (out of 850) were found alive but in a dazed condition.
“The sheepherder was knocked temporarily unconscious, but escaped death because he was in a tent. However, burned spots on his canvas tent revealed he probably missed the fate of the sheep by only a slim margin.”
Thanks to Randy Cerveny of Arizona State University for this additional nugget.
Picture credit – Norwegian Environment Agency