323 reindeer killed by lightning

Hunters in Norway discovered an entire herd of dead deer, apparently struck by lightning. Experts explain the hows and whys.

Rachel Kaplan ,

Caribou (Illustration)
Caribou (Illustration)

323 reindeer were simultaneously electrocuted by lightning in a Norwegian thunderstorm. Hunters discovered the bodies last Friday, according to the Norwegian News Agency.

The herd, which included 70 calves, made history as one of the deadliest lightning strikes ever.

The herd was huddled together on a hillside when lightning directly struck the ground. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration expert John Jensenius explained to The Verge that the animals were likely killed by ground current - the shock of energy which spreads through nearby matter when lightning strikes the area. In this case, the herd seemed to be standing over an area which was 50 to 80 feet in diameter, indicating a powerful lightning bolt struck the earth.

Jensenius said that animals can be particularly affected by lightning, since, in a ground shock, lightning travels up one leg and down another. As four-leggers tend to stand with their legs farther apart than humans, the lightning affects their bodies more, in all likelihood stopping their hearts. Ground lightning is responsible for most human and animal lightning deaths.

However, thanks to better safety education and building grounding, lightning-related deaths are going down. In the early 1900s, some 300-400 lightning related deaths in the United States were reported each year. In 2016, 32 people died in the United States after being struck by lightning.