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Illinois hunting and fishing

Journal Star photo
Frances Holmes, 8, center, and brother Jimmy, 10, gaze at dead deer in a crop field northwest of Peoria on Tuesday. Nine deer apparently were killed early Sunday by a single bolt of lightning, a happenstance that animal experts describe as rare.

Lightning strike kills nine deer

April 22, 2009 at 07:53 AM

Peoria Journal Star

Killing time before church Sunday morning, Frances and Jimmy Holmes walked outside their rural Peoria home and spotted white tufts sprouting from a nearby field.

“We thought they were birds,” said Frances, 8.

But as she and her 10-year-old brother walked out to investigate, they discovered a gruesome sight: eight dead deer, apparently felled all at once - probably by lightning. Later, not far off, they found another lifeless deer.

The siblings looked over the rotting corpses under Tuesday morning’s dreary sky. Wet, cold rain pelted the animals, stretched out in hues of brown, gray and white in the middle of a crop field.

Frances said softly, “It’s just sad, nine deer lost.”

It’s also very unusual, according to animal experts.

“Every year, you hear about a farmer losing a cow to lightning,” says Lauren Malmberg, director of the Peoria Animal Welfare Society. “And it happens sometimes to one deer. But I’ve never heard of more than one.”

In the wee hours of Sunday, rain fell on and around Mount Carmel Way, a thin ribbon of pavement that stretches off Southport Road, northwest of Peoria city limits. Mount Carmel Way pushes past a handful of dwellings before ending at a bean and corn field owned by Steve and Kate Smart.

The neighboring Holmes children say they like to watch deer that often poke out of nearby woods in search of food.

“They get into our yard and sometimes get into our garden,” Frances says. “But otherwise they’re nice to look at.”

The siblings, along with their mother, Chris Holmes, awoke around 4:30 a.m. Sunday at the sound of a massive BOOM.

Chris Holmes, 41, says, “I’d never heard thunder that loud.”

Yet other than that one crash, they noticed no other thunder, nor saw any lightning. Still, just one bolt can spark serious carnage.

Dan Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lincoln, said cloud-to-ground strikes had been reported in the area early Sunday. Likely, the deer were feeding together on wet ground and got zapped by the same bolt of lightning - one of which can carry more than 100 million volts.

Eight of the deer - all felled within a 12-square-yard area - likely died immediately of electrocution, Smith said. The other animal, found about 100 yards away, might have been grazing slightly away from the herd when the lightning hit. Its injuries might have been slightly less severe, allowing it to stagger away before falling dead, Smith said.

Tuesday morning, turkey vultures pecked at the carcasses before flying away at the sound of the approaching Holmes children.

What will become of the deer?

The owners of the field have been out of the country and will not return until Friday, according to a house-sitting relative.

Meanwhile, PAWS does not typically handle dead animals on private property. Moreover, director Malmberg said that each of the deer is too big to fit into the PAWS incinerator, and their number is too many to cram into the shelter’s Dumpster.

When PAWS euthanizes injured deer, it immediately alerts Wildlife Prairie State Park, which butchers the animals to feed to the park’s cougars and wolves. However, after two days of rotting, the deer produce toxins that can be unhealthy for the park’s animals, says Linda Prescott, the park’s general manager. Plus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture forbids the park from using rotting animal flesh as animal chow.

But Prescott says nature might dispose of the deer, thanks to coyotes, turkey vultures, crows and “whatever else has the munchies.”

“They’ll probably have them cleaned up in less than a week,” Prescott says. “Then it’ll be down to just a skeleton.”

That’s possible, says Mike Wefer, a biologist with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. But with that amount of flesh, the carcasses could start to stink before predators have their fill. Meantime, the agency does not handle dead wildlife on private grounds.

“We don’t have a road kill squad that could go in and take them out,” Wefer says.

He says the property owner could bury the deer: “Just let them go back to the circle of life.”

However, with the ground so wet, it could be days before a tractor could get into the field. Meanwhile, the animals will decompose further.

“There could be a good smell,” Wefer says.

Your CommentsComments :: Terms :: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

WOW ! Never saw anything like this before.To bad it happened,but it looks like a good chance to get the high powered rifle out and do some coyote hunting !

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 10:17 AM

John and Paul started their LWS in April and didn’t tell anyone!

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 01:24 PM

I think its time someone calls in Scully and Muller from the X-files.  9 deer in one shot, not even Chris Brackett could do that.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 02:02 PM

do NOT underestimate the capabilities of the GREAT chris brackett. he is a manimal. part man, part animal.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 03:09 PM

it was aliens

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 03:11 PM

Trying to figure out why someone would want to get the “high powered rifle” and kill the coyotes.  Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense since the coyotoes would actually be doing the land owner a favor by eating the carcasses.  But hey, there are plenty of post on this site that don’t maie much sense.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 05:00 PM

Interesting comments!
Never a dull moment here…

Posted by Mike Clifford on 04/22 at 05:52 PM

A press release was just issued from Paul Shelton, its a new technique the DNR is using to control the deer population. You all wondered where your money was going, now we know. LOL

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 06:13 PM

I will resist the obvious urge to make a post regarding the DNR ...... but who the heck is “Brackett”?

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 06:17 PM

Great!  Now along with EHD, CWD, LWS, Poachers, Coyotes, Bobcats, Cougars, and Bambi Killers, we have to worry about lightening strikes.  Damned Does don’t have a chance, not even God will protect them.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 08:18 PM

FRANCES AND JIMMY, THANK GOODNESS YOU WON’T HAVE TO WITNESS WHAT THE PEOPLE WHO ARE SUPPOSE TO PROTECT OUR DEER ARE GOING TO ALLOW HAPPEN IN JANUARY. FRANCES, I’M SAD TOO.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 09:52 PM

This is not a interesting scene to find. I have discovered a similiar site years ago with it being 7 or 8 cows and the best calving bull being killed due to a lightening strike under a tree.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/22 at 11:14 PM

Don, you don’t know who Chris Brackett is? Hell he is the guy that invented carp shooting.  He is also the guy who just plead guilty to a couple game VIOLATIONS.  Seems he forgot to check in a deer and didn’t know turtles where illegal to take with bow and arrow.  He has a new show comin out in the fall called “Poachers Affliction”.  Can you tell I don’t like game violators.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/23 at 11:55 AM

Illinoisbonecollector, I was about ready to explain that but ya saved me alot of time letting bubby know the vultures and crows would take care of the mess since we can’t shoot vultures and crow seasons out.

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 04/27 at 09:00 AM

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