Hundreds of reindeer slain by lightning strike

(Havard Kjøntvedt, Environment Directorate / the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate)
(Havard Kjøntvedt, Environment Directorate / the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate)

It's a peaceful scene turned horrific - hundreds of reindeer corpses now litter a mountain plateau in Norway.

An official for the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (NNI) stumbled upon the bodies of more than 300 reindeer while conducting a routine inspection in an area near Hardangervidda, south Norway.

Of the 323 reindeer killed, 70 were calves, the Norwegian Environment Agency says.

It's believed the herd was killed when a powerful thunderstorm swept the area.

"During a heavy thunderstorm, they may have gathered even closer together out of fear," an NNI spokesperson told local media.

The reindeer had huddled so close together that many bodies on the plateau were found piled on top of one another.

Officials say they've never seen anything like this on this scale.

It's not known whether the deaths were the result of one lightning strike or multiple.

Samples have been taken from several of the bodies and will be studied so they can find out for sure how the animals died.

Authorities have yet to decide what to do with the bodies - whether to leave them on the plateau, or take them away.