A lightning strike in Norway has killed more than 300 reindeer, according to reports from local media. A spokesman for the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (NNI) told NTB, the Norwegian News Agency, that 323 reindeer were found dead on Friday in an area near Hardangervidda, in the southern part of the country. In a press release published Sunday, the Norwegian Environment Agency said that 70 of the dead reindeer were calves. Officials believe that the animals were killed by lightning during a heavy thunderstorm, marking what could be the deadliest lightning strike in history.
"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," NNI spokesman Knut Nylend tells NTB. "We don’t know if it was one or more lighting strike; that would only be speculation."
Nylend discovered the animals in a remote part of a private hunting area, and NIN employees have been dispatched to the region to take samples from the reindeer. Hardangervidda national park is home to an estimated 10,000 wild reindeer that migrate across the region every year. Nylend speculates that the reindeer may have been killed because they are often close to one another, and "they may have gathered even closer together out of fear" during the thunderstorm.
As BNO News notes, the deadliest lightning strike involving livestock occurred in 2005, when 68 cows were killed in Australia, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. The deadliest incident involving humans occurred in 1971, according to Guinness, when a lightning strike caused a Peruvian airline to crash into the Amazon, killing 91 people. The Guinness Book of World Records does not appear to track wildlife deaths due to lightning strikes.