Reindeer Killed En-Masse By Lightning Strike In Norway: Evolutionary Behavior Of Animals During Natural Calamities Reason For Their Death?

A single lightning strike during a storm killed off more than 300 innocent reindeer in Norway. The large herd included 70 calves. While mass deaths of animals due to natural calamities aren’t unheard of, this is certainly of the largest casualties caused by Mother Nature’s fury.

A lightning strike during a recent thunderstorm in Norway is believed to be responsible for the death of 323 reindeer, of which 70 were calves. Undoubtedly one of the deadliest strikes of Mother Nature, the unfortunate incident occurred on a remote plateau in the country. Reports about the discovery are contradictory. While some publications report an official from the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate came across the macabre scene during a routine inspection, others insist a group of hunters spotted the carcasses last Friday.

Despite the conflicting reports, the chilling incident occurred in the southern part of Norway on the Hardangervidda plateau, confirmed a press release from the Norwegian Environment Agency (NEA).

The agency released photos of the reindeer bodies strewn across the mountainous plateau. After verifying the total number of fatalities, the agency confirmed that it is one of the deadliest lightning strikes they have witnessed, reported Norwegian news agency NTB.

The agency quoted Norwegian Nature Inspectorate Knut Nylend, who said, “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. We don’t know if it was one or more lighting strike.”

Samples drawn from a few of the deceased reindeer have been sent to the Norwegian Veterinary Institute to confirm how the animals died. The agency doesn’t suspect any foul play yet. Although no plausible causes have been discarded, the agency is confident it was the lightning strike that killed the 323 reindeer. Their death most likely occurred because the reindeer often huddle together, suggested the agency’s spokesperson, Kjartan Knutsen. However, he added that while the mass death of animals during a storm isn’t uncommon, the agency has never “heard about such numbers before.”

Incidentally, while the NEA might not have encountered such mass fatalities, more than 650 sheep have been killed in a single spot in Utah by a freak lightning strike. The herd of sheep was struck by a lightning that was forked, and it killed 654 sheep that were standing on the field.


The reindeer were most likely killed because of typical animal behavior. When threatened by natural calamities that do not force the herding animals to move away, they prefer to huddle together in an attempt to ride out the rough weather.

Animal behavior specialists suggest that creatures that survive in groups often find the collective strength of the herd very reassuring. Many animals, including sheep, bison, gazelles, buffaloes, and other herbivores often come closer together during storms and other intimidating forces of nature. Moreover, the herd morphs into a very large unified creature that has far better chances of survival than a singular animal battling the elements of nature. The problem worsens when the animals seek shelter under a tree. Drenched trees act as lightning rods and can attract lightning. Despite the habit of herding together, animals do tend to split into smaller groups, and while there are no official statistics available, no more than 20 animals usually die due to a lightning strike.

Can humans protect themselves during a lightning strike? While a direct strike is dangerous and often fatal, even a lightning strike in the vicinity can cause some serious damage. This is because the current travels through the ground and can strike a person or an animal. Fortunately, lightning doesn’t cover much distance once it hits the ground.

[Photo by Jonathan Nackstrand/Getty Images]