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323 Reindeer Die In A Single Moment When Lightning Strikes

They were all huddling close together in the bad weather.

During a lightning storm in central Norway on Friday, 323 reindeer died in a single moment.

Reindeer tend to stay very close to each other in bad weather, so wildlife officials believe a lightning bolt rippling through the herd killed them all at once, according to Norwegian Environment Agency spokesman Kjartan Knutsen.

"I don't know if there were several lightning strikes," Knutsen told the Associated Press. "But it happened in one moment."

Havard Kjøntvedt/Norwegian Environment Agency

Of the hundreds of bodies scattered across the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, about 70 are calves.

"It isn't that unusual to see farm animals, or wild animals such as reindeer, being killed by lightning," John Jensenius, a lightning safety expert from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told The Verge, pointing out an incident in 1918 when 654 sheep were killed in one spot in Utah.

"Animals do tend to group together in storms and huddle under trees," Jensenius said. "If lightning strikes the tree or somewhere nearby, the entire group can be killed."

Havard Kjøntvedt/Norwegian Environment Agency

Reindeer are considered a vulnerable species, according to the IUCN, because of a 40 percent population drop over the past two decades, from about 4,800,000 to 2,890,410 individuals. Threats to the migratory animal include changes in habitat and unregulated hunting. In recent years, global warming has also threatened their survival.

Havard Kjøntvedt/Norwegian Environment Agency

The 323 reindeer will be tested for disease, but the death of this particular herd was probably just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.