So-called "freak lightning" is reportedly to blame for the deaths of more than 300 wild reindeer in southern Norway. Officials have linked the deaths of 323 reindeer at a national park to a thunderstorm that devastated the Hardangervidda region on Friday, the Telegraph reports. An additional 5 reindeer have since been euthanized.
"We have never experienced such numbers before," Norwegian Environment Agency spokesperson Kjartan Knutsen told CNN on Monday. "This is very large." According to Knutsen, the reindeer were "huddled together" due to the weather on Friday. "That's why it's possible for the lightning to kill so many," Knutsen said. The 323 death toll included 70 calves.
As Norway is currently in the middle of its wild reindeer hunting season, the deceased reindeer were discovered by an agency inspector following the storm. The agency is now taking samples from the deceased to conduct a larger health survey. "We know they were killed by lightning," Knutsen told CNN. "But this testing is for science."
The Hardangervidda park is described as a "typical habitat" for the wild reindeer, with one quarter of the population in Norway residing in the region. However, as the park's website states, the chances of spotting them are still relatively slim. The animals are often shy around humans and tend to avoid "highly trafficked" areas.
Historically speaking, the unfortunate deaths of 323 reindeer in Norway is a daunting figure. BNO News notes that 68 cows were killed by a single bolt of lightning in Australia in 2005. As for human-related lightning deaths, the Guinness World Records claims the deadliest such incident occurred back in 1971 when 91 people were killed after lightning hit LANSA Flight 508.