Deadly Lightning Strikes! What Does Mother Nature Have Against Santa?

Reindeer killed by Lightning in Norway

Hundreds of reindeer killed by lightning in Norway

Lightning Kills Reindeer

On August 26th, in a tremendous storm, mother nature threw a series of lightning bolts on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau in Norway. Disturbingly, the electrical bolts struck a herd of reindeer and killed 323 of them including 70 calves. Reindeer often huddle together in bad weather either for protection or for solace — a strategy that backfired this time. The strikes dropped the herd where they stood sadly producing a field of dead animals. Unfortunately, authorities did not say whether any other wildlife was affected

Field of Corpses

A representative of Norwegian Environment Agency, Kjartan Knutsen, informed the press that wild animals are commonly hit by lightning but what makes this event unusual is the large number of big animals that were killed at once. While the agency normally leaves dead wild animals lay and allows nature to take it’s course, the sheer mass of dead animals makes this questionable. They are still debating what to do with the carcasses.

I don’t know what the roads up to this area are like, but I’d suggest sending refrigerated trucks up there and giving as many carcasses as possible to zoos. Zoos spend a large portion of their budgets feeding carnivores. The agency could help animal parks and zoos greatly with such a donation. If the agency doesn’t remove many of the carcasses, scavengers including insects and bacteria will eventually consume them. It will be a scentsational experience… if you know what I mean!

So if Santa is late next year – we’ll all know why… (froak-joke!)

Froggie Factoids:

2 reindeer foraging

Reindeer aka caribou in happier times

Reindeer

  • Scientific Name of Reindeer: Rangifer tarandus
  • Status: Vulnerable due to recent 40% declines in population from about 4,800,000 to 2,890,410
  • Location: Circumpolar or surrounding the Arctic, Subarctic, tundra, boreal and mountains
  • Called Caribou in the Americas
  • Food strategy: herbivore
  • Lifespan: 14 years
mutiple forks of lightning

Multiple lightning strikes like the ones depicted here may have killed the reindeer herd

Lightning:

  • Lightning happens when charged particles in atoms get separated with positive ions going higher in the sky and negative ions closer to the ground. Eventually, the less-negative neutral charge on the ground attracts the negative ions producing a strike
  • A lightning strike releases 630 million ergs of energy
  • Lightning can flash within a cloud or from ground to earth
  • An average of 75 electrical discharges hit the earth per second worldwide
  • A bolt from the blue describes a lightning strike,¬†comprised of positive ions, from the top of the cloud to the earth up to 20 miles away from the storm. These strikes carry more energy than normal

Sources: National Weather Service, SWO Fire Data, Blue Planet Biomes, IUCN Redlist, CBS News