We usually hear about the dangers of lightning strikes — the U.S averages 51 annual lightning strike fatalities in the last 20 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). But humans are not the only victims of lightning strikes — animals are, to0.
On Monday night, a bear in Colorado was killed when the tree it was sitting in was struck by lightning, according to wildlife officials.
The bear was in a tree and died instantly, Colorado Parks and Wildlife SE Region said on Twitter. (Photo Credit: CPW SE / Twitter)
“[The bear] died instantly,” Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s (CPW) Southeast Region said on Twitter on Tuesday.
The incident occurred in Woodland Park in Teller County, Colo.
The agency cautioned that lightning doesn’t just kill people in the state, but wildlife also can suffer a similar fate.
CPW officer Tim Kroening estimated that the bear weighed around 300 pounds.
The age of the bear was unclear, but based on his weight, he was determined to be an older bear, CPW spokesman Jason Clay told the Denver Post.
According to Clay, while it’s also possible that the bear died from the fall if he was located very high up in the tree, park officials are certain lightning was the cause of the bear’s death.
In June, two giraffes were killed by lightning at a Florida safari park. But perhaps the most famous lightning strike victim (and survivor) of the animal world is Sparky the bison at Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge in Iowa, who was struck in 2013.
Sparky the bison was struck by lightning in 2013, but survived. (Photo Credit: Karen Viste-Sparkman /USFWS)
Sparky went on to live — with burn marks — for another five years.
Direct lightning strikes, however, are not as common as the other ways people and animals are struck by lightning.
According to the National Weather Service, a side flash (also called a side splash) occurs when lightning strikes a taller object (such as a tree) near the victim and a portion of the current jumps from the taller object to the victim.
When lightning strikes a tree or other object, energy can also travel outward from the strike in and along the ground surface — this is known as the ground current. Anyone outside near a lightning strike is potentially a victim of ground current.
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