The Norwegian Environment Agency has recently released a series of haunting images of at least 323 dead reindeer – 70 of them calves – killed in what has been described as one of the deadliest lightning strikes ever.
It is unclear exactly when the natural disaster occurred, but the hundreds of dead bodies were discovered on Friday by a group of hunters in a remote area of the barren Hardanangervidda plateau, in central Norway. Spanning some 8,000 square kilometers, Hardangervidda is the largest high mountain plateau in northern Europe and the largest national park in Norway, with a population of 10,000 to 11,000 wild reindeer.
While the specifics of the mass death will probably never be known, experts say that animals tend to huddle together in extreme weather, which makes it easier for lightning to pass through their bodies. Norwegian officials say that multiple animal deaths caused by lightning strike is not very uncommon, but the scale of this event is definitely unheard of. “We are not familiar with any previous happening on such a scale,” Kjartan Knutsen of the Norwegian Environment Agency said. “Individual animals do from time to time get killed by lightning, and there are incidents where sheep have been killed in groups of 10 or even 20, but we have never seen anything like this.”