UPDATED: An inspector for Norway’s wildlife and environmental protection agency Statens naturoppsyn (SNO) encountered an animal tragedy while out making his rounds on a mountain plateau just before the weekend. More than 300 wild reindeer, including 70 calves, were found dead in a radius of just 50 to 60 meters.
Knut Nylend told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Sunday that the wild reindeer, which move in large, tight flocks and are a protected species in Norway, were most probably killed by lightning bolts that struck the Hardangervidda plateau Friday afternoon.
“There were quite hard weather conditions with thunder and lightning in the afternoon,” Nylend told NRK. “The flock must have been hit by lightning.”
The dead animals were found, some of them lying on top of each other, between Møsvatn and Kalhovd in Telemark County. They included both males and females, and four animals were still found to be alive, but badly injured. They were killed by the authorities to put them out of their misery.
Staff from SNO and the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) were working at the site on Sunday, counting the animals and taking biological samples from them. They determined 322 reindeer were killed, all in a concentrated area where “they certainly were standing tightly together,” Nylend said. “They often do so.”
He said it was still unclear what would be done with all the cadavers, saying that was a matter for the state food safety agency Mattilsynet to decide. There are an estimated 10,000 wild reindeer roaming Hardangervidda.