A lightning strike has reportedly killed over 300 reindeer in the postcard-friendly land of Hardangervidda in Norway.
At least 323 reindeer have been found dead within a space of just 50 to 80 meters (160 to 260 feet) between Møsvatn and Kalhovd in Telemark, Hardangervidda. Five more had to be euthanized. A ranger from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (NNI) came across the bizarre sight in a remote part of the park on Friday evening, the Norwegian Environment Agency reports.
The area was subject to a massive thunderstorm that afternoon, leading the NNI to believe the mass-death was a result of a thunderstrike. To confirm this, the NNI flew eight researchers to this remote hunting region on Sunday in order to study the bodies and take samples back to the lab. The tissue samples will also be analyzed for chronic wasting disease, which affected a group of reindeer in the area earlier this year.
Dozens of carcasses in the hills of Hardangervidda, as seen on Sunday. Image credit: Havard Kjøntvedt, Environment Directorate / the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate.
“They were lying there dead in a fairly concentrated area,” NNI spokesman Knut Nylend told NTB, The Local reports. "Reindeer are pack animals and are often close together. During a heavy thunderstorm, they may have gathered even closer together out of fear.
“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," he added. "We don’t know if it was one or more lighting strike; that would only be speculation."
Around 10,000 reindeer migrate over an area of 8,000 square kilometers (3,100 square miles) of Hardangervidda, which is a common jaunt for hikers, tourists, and hunters.
According to the Guinness World Records, the largest recorded number of cows killed by a lightning strike was in New South Wales, Australia, in 2005, when 68 cows died from the storm. Although there is a lack of recorded evidence of other animals being killed en-mass by lightning, it looks like this event in Norway could be up there with the deadliest ever.