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Lightning storm kills over 300 deer in Norway

It's the biggest group of deer that has ever been killed by lightning in a single storm.

Nature Inspectorate

Lightning is wild and beautiful, but also very dangerous -- especially to reindeer, it seems. On August 26, a lightning storm swept the mountain plateau of Hardangervidda in Norway, laying waste to an entire herd of migrating reindeer, some 323 animals.

The kill count included 70 calves, according to the Norwegian Environment Agency's Nature Inspectorate. Five animals were still alive and had to be euthanised. Although it is not certain how the reindeer died, the Inspectorate believes that an unusually high electrical discharge interacted with the storm's highly conductive torrential rain and electrocuted them. Because reindeer huddle together during storms, the animals were found contained in an area just 50 to 80 metres (164 to 262 feet).

"We are not familiar with any previous happening on such a scale," the Inspectorate's Kjartan Knutsen told The New York Times. "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."