A herd of 323 reindeer was found dead on a mountain in Norway on Friday, victims of an apparent lightning strike in the area according to local reports. The herd included 70 calves along with adults of both sexes.
A game warden from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (NNI) was on a routine inspection Friday when he discovered the dead reindeer all lying close together on the ground.
NNI spokesman Knut Nylend told the Norwegian News Agency (NTB) that the animals were in a remote private hunting area in Telemark, where a powerful storm had recently passed through.
“They were lying there dead in a fairly concentrated area. Reindeer are pack animals and are often close together. During a heavy thunderstorm, they may have gathered even closer together out of fear,” Nylend said. “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; that would only be speculation.”
Four animals were still alive when authorities arrived, but had to be euthanized at the scene.
NNI officials were flown into the remote area to gather samples from the reindeer.
“We sent up a team of eight people to take samples to be sent to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute for research. Then we will know for sure how the animals died,” said Nylend.
Because of concerns about chronic wasting disease, all animals from the herd over a year old will be tested. According to the Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA) website, brain samples on the animals will be collected: “The heads are therefore transported down the mountain, and samples taken consecutively and sent to the Institute for further investigation.”
The rest of the animals will be left behind. According to the NEA, “this is the norm that nature takes its course and cleans up even when animals die.”