Hardangervidda, a mountain plateau in southern Norway that is popular among tourists and hikers, is known for its natural beauty. As the seasons change, thousands of reindeer migrate across the plateau, moving between drier lands in the east, where they graze on lichens, and wetter lands in the west, where they breed.
But on Friday, a storm transformed the plateau into a grisly scene. A massive thunderbolt of lightning appeared to have killed an entire herd: 323 reindeer at last count, including 70 calves and five reindeer that had to be put down because they were severely injured in the storm.
“We are not familiar with any previous happening on such a scale,” Kjartan Knutsen, an official at the Nature Inspectorate, part of the Norwegian Environment Agency, said in a phone interview on Monday. “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.”
How likely is it that it really was lightning that killed those reindeer? Is there a way to know without having seen the strike directly?