Only nature can serve up stories like this, and have them turn out to be true. They first surface in the outdoors rumor mill, then catch fire on the Internet, and eventually we sort out the facts.
Nobody made this one up because nobody could.
Seven deer are found dead in a farm field in Wisconsin. It is not the result of some bizarre ritual, or poisoning, or a senseless slaughter by an angry landowner fed up with his crops being ravaged by the nocturnal food bandits.
Mother Nature gets full credit for this one. Call it a freak accident, although it doesn't really qualify as such. Call it natural selection. Or just process the information and mark it as a once-in-a-lifetime event.
The seven deer were found dead in an open field, with six of them roughly huddled in a circle. When law enforcement officials arrived to investigate the scene, located just north of the Illinois border, they initially found precious little evidence.
There were no signs of any kind of gunshot wounds, and only one deer had small, visible red marks on it. The seventh deer was about 75 yards away from the group, but appeared to have suffered the same fate.
In the middle of the circle of six deer there was a small hole in the ground, roughly five inches deep and five inches in diameter. Authorities reported that the hole looked like the result of some kind of explosion.
Veteran outdoors observers recognized right away that the deer had been killed by a lightning strike. Foolish golfers are not the only ones exposed to danger when summer electrical storms are on the move.
A review of the weather data from the area confirmed there were thunderstorms in the area the previous night, and it was highly likely that the deer had been browsing in a group when a bolt of lightning hit the ground and either raced through the saturated soil and killed them, or jumped from one animal to another.
A neighbor reported that earlier in the evening he had seen the herd of deer drinking from large puddles in the field ? puddles that had accumulated following heavy rains. The huge surge of electricity from the lightning strike could easily have tracked its way to the seventh deer, since the puddles and wet ground would serve as an ideal conductor of the current.
With the trickery at our disposal with tools such as Photoshop, reports such as this are customarily followed by a chorus of doubters and naysayers, and it is wise to be initially skeptical of any truly freakish story. A good computer program can put Bigfoot walking down Fifth Avenue and make it look so real.
But once the experts examined the scene, they confirmed this one was legit. Shocking, with no pun intended, but legit.
Some immediately brushed off the account, since there were no burn marks on the animals, but medical personnel experienced in lightning strike cases said burns are not always visible. The damage can be all internal.
The deer in the Wisconsin incident were not sacrificed as part of some weird rite nor were they the victims of an alien abduction. They just got struck by lightning.
One of the interesting footnotes to the story was lost as readers and outdoors observers more or less were transfixed on the sensational impact of the photos of the event ? seven deer out in the open, lying there like they were sleeping, but dead of acute electrical poisoning.
The property owner, a pragmatic fellow, decided against any mass burial or removal. He let the deer remain in the field, right where they fell. Nature had a hand in their death, and nature will reclaim them, on its own timetable.
Matt Markey is the A-T outdoors columnist.
Contact him at: