SKINNARBU , Norway, Aug. 29 (UPI) -- A lightning strike in northern Norway is believed responsible for the deaths of 323 reindeer, an environmental official said.
The animals, adults and calves of both sexes, were found dead Friday in an area of about 54 to 84 yards in diameter in south-central Norway's Hardangervidda region. Their proximity to one another suggests a mass death by lightning strike.
"There was an especially heavy thunderstorm in the afternoon. The herd was probably struck dead by lightning," said Knut Nylend of the Norwegian Nature Protectorate. "This is very special. I've heard of cattle being killed by lightning, but not in such huge volumes."
About 10,000 wild reindeer typically roam the picturesque Hardangervidda area, a mountain plateau largely protected as a national park.
Researchers will use the mass death as an opportunity to study the reindeer carcasses for chronic wasting disease, a form of encephalopathy similar to mad cow disease which affects deer, elk and moose.
It remains unclear how the carcasses will be collected and disposed of.