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Thor vs Santa: Lightning Strike Leaves Hundreds of Norwegian Reindeer Dead

© REUTERS / Havard Kjotvedt/SNO/Miljodirektoratet/NTB ScanpixDead wild reindeer are seen on Hardangervidda in Norway, after lightning struck the central mountain plateau and killed more than 300 of them, in this handout photo received on August 28, 2016
Dead wild reindeer are seen on Hardangervidda in Norway, after lightning struck the central mountain plateau and killed more than 300 of them, in this handout photo received on August 28, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Hundreds of reindeer have been found dead in the picturesque Norwegian mountain region of Hardangervidda. Although the cause of the bizarre event remains unknown, the mysterious loss has been blamed on a lightning strike.

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The 323 dead reindeer were discovered by a hunting warden at the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) between Møsvatn and Kalhovd in Telemark County.

"The deer were found dead in an area 50-80 meters in diameter" Knut Nylend of the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate operations center in Skinnarbu told Norwegian national broadcaster NRK.

Although mass deaths of such proportions are fairly uncommon, a lightning strike is believed to have been the culprit. Both adult animals and calves were reported dead.

"There was an especially heavy thunderstorm in the afternoon. The herd was probably struck dead by the lightning," Nylend said, noting the uniqueness of this case. "This is very special. I've heard of cattle being killed by lightning, but not in such huge volumes," Nylend explained.

​SNO personnel are reported to be working at the site, taking samples of the dead animals. According to Nylend, the corpses lie very close together, which is why a lightning strike is suspected.

Samples of the dead animals' blood and tissue will be examined for chronic wasting disease (CWD), which was detected in both Norwegian reindeer and elk earlier this year.

"We will seize this opportunity to check if there are infected animals," Nylend said.

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Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) which is only found in members of the deer family, such as mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk or moose. Remarkably, this disease has been known to affect cervids in North America since the 1960s and is closely related to mad cow disease and only affects adult animals. As of today, there is no evidence of the transmission of the disease to humans. So far it remains unclear how the deer carcasses will be disposed of.

The mountain plateau Hardangervidda in central southern Norway is the largest of its kind in Europe. Much of the plateau is protected as part of Hardangervidda National Park, which has a population of around 10,000 wild reindeer, one of the largest of its kind, according to the Norwegian Wild Reindeer Centre.

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