323 wild reindeer killed by lightning

A herd of wild reindeer on Hardangervidda was struck by lightning on Friday 26 August. The 323 animals killed included 70 calves.

Last Friday, the Norwegian Environment Agency’s organisation in the field, the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO), encountered the herd that had been struck by lightning at Vesle Saure in Vinje. There had been bad weather in the area. The SNO was engaged in supervisory activities in connection with wild reindeer hunting on the Hardangervidda plateau.

They observed 323 animals of both genders in the herd. Five of the wild reindeer were put down by the SNO.

The SNO and representatives of the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA) were in the area on Sunday 29 August. They collected tissue samples from the animals.

Around 2,000 wild reindeer are harvested each year by hunters on Hardangervidda.

The herd will be tested for disease

This autumn, a national survey of the disease CWD is being carried out by the Norwegian Food Safety Authority and the Norwegian Environment Agency. As part of this survey, all animals from the herd that are one year or older will be examined for the disease, the full name of which is Chronic Wasting Disease. To identify whether an animal has the disease, a sample of brain tissue must be examined in a laboratory. The animals’ heads were therefore brought down from the mountain and samples taken and sent on to the National Veterinary Institute for further examination. When completed, the results will be available in the National Deer Register (Hjorteviltregisteret).

What will happen to the animals on the mountain?

Scientists and the SNO will go out to examine the animals further. Other than this, the normal thing is for nature to take its course and clear up after animals die. This situation is however somewhat special because of the large number of animals and the CWD recently discovered in wild reindeer in the Nordfjella wild reindeer area, just north of Hardangervidda. A final decision on what to do with the animals will therefore be made after the testing of samples for CWD has been completed. If CWD should be found in any of the animals, the decision will be taken in consultation with the Norwegian Food Safety Authority. The wild reindeer population is in a remote area that is hardly visited by people.

On Sunday evening, the SNO reported that they observed 323 dead reindeer, including five that had to be put down.

High-resolution pictures can be downloaded from Flickr. All images must be credited to Håvard Kjøntvedt, Norwegian Environment Agency/Directorate for Nature Management.


senior adviser Kjartan Knutsen
Norwegian Environment Inspectorate
telefon 958 20 521

senior adviser Erik Lund
wildlife section
telefon 920 89 834

senior adviser Kari Bjørneraas 
wildlife section
telefon 952 18 088