Dead reindeer will be left to rot

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More than 300 dead reindeer will be left on a remote mountain plateau in Hardanger where they were found by a Norwegian wildlife inspector just before last weekend. State environmental authorities have decided against mounting a major operation to remove all the cadavers.

Norwegian authorities have decided to leave the more than 300 dead reindeer found over the weekend where they're lying, on a mountain plateau in Hardanger. The reindeer are believed to have been killed by lightning. PHOTO: Miljødirektoratet/Statens naturoppsyn/Håvard Kjøntvedt

Norwegian authorities have decided to leave the more than 300 dead reindeer found over the weekend where they’re lying, on a mountain plateau in Hardanger. The wild reindeer are believed to have been killed by lightning. PHOTO: Miljødirektoratet/Statens naturoppsyn/Håvard Kjøntvedt

“We have no plans to carry the dead animals down from the plateau,” Erik Lund, senior adviser for the wildlife section at Miljødirektoratet, Norway’s equivalent of an environmental protection agency, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Tuesday afternoon.

“It’s not unusual that dead animals are left lying where they fell,” Lund said. “What’s unusual in this case is the large quantity of dead animals.”

They’re all believed to have been killed by lightning while huddled together during a storm on Hardanger last Friday afternoon. State authorities ended up counting 323 dead reindeer including 70 calves.

Lund said that the area where the villrein (wild reindeer) are lying is not close to any major hiking trails, nor is it in the vicinity of any important sources of water. The authorities thus feel it’s best to just leave them where they are, and let nature run its course.

Researchers and veterinarians from the environmental protection and food safety agencies, plus the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research and bureau of land management have all been working at the site since the animals were found. They’ve taken samples from the reindeer to test for any diseases, all of which are being analyzed at the state veterinary institute in Oslo.

“When the results come in, we’ll see if there’s any compelling reason to reverse our decision to let the reindeer lay where they fell,” Lund said. Results are expected within a week.

The extraordinary animal tragedy has sparked interest around the world. “Folks from all over the globe have been in contact with us, wondering why this happened and what we’re going to do now,” Lund said. Researchers stunned by the loss of so many wild reindeer, a protected species in Norway, say it at least provided an opportunity to secure samples from the animals for a series of at least 35 tests aimed at helping Norwegian authorities ensure their future. The animals can’t be protected from lightning, however, the force of which hit in an area where the annual hunting season began just a week ago. Hunters will be allowed to shoot 2,000 reindeer this season, which runs through September.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund