A lightning strike has killed more than 300 reindeer at a Norwegian National Park.

Since the strike on Friday, the Norwegian Environment Agency has released these very haunting images of the 323 dead animals, which included 70 calves.


Havard Kjøntvedt, Environment Directorate / the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate

The photographs show seemingly endless fallen reindeer carcasses that are scattered across a small area on the Hardanangervidda mountain plateau – the largest mountain plateau in northern Europe.

The national park is also the largest in Norway with wild reindeer populations, making this event even more devastating. The national park spans over 8,000 kilometers (3,088 square miles) and is home to an astonishing 10,000-11,000 wild reindeer. It is expected that thousands of reindeer migrate across the barren Hardanangervidda plateau as the seasons change.

While the specifics of this natural disaster is unknown at this time, it is likely that the reindeer were huddled closely together when the sever thunderstorm rolled in.

Agency spokesman Kjartan Knutsen told the Associated Press it’s not uncommon for reindeer or other wildlife to be killed by lightning strikes, “but we have not heard about such numbers before.”

He said that reindeer tend to stay very close to each other in bad weather – perhaps thinking that this might keep them safe – which could explain why so many reindeer were heartbreakingly killed in one incident.


Havard Kjøntvedt, Environment Directorate / the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate

Sadly, this wasn’t the first instance that lightning had caused animal herds to die in large quantities. In 1990, a thunderstorm killed 30 cattle on a farm in Orange County, Virginia – leaving their carcasses scattered in a field.

Another lightning strike killed 68 cows at a dairy farm outside of Dorrigo, Australia in 2005, and lightning struck a paddock’s wire fence in Montevideo, Uruguay which killed 52 cattle grazing inside in 2008.

Steve Goodman, a scientist with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s Satellite Service said “I’ve heard of groups of cow [getting killed] when it strikes the ground”.

“The lightning can spread for hundreds and hundreds of meters, for sure.”

It should also be noted that Norway is not particularly prone to sever lightning. In fact, satellite data from NASA’s Global Hydrology Research Center show that in an average year, southern Norway sees fewer than one lightning strike per square kilometer.