An orphaned mountain goat believed to have been struck by lightning earlier this month was found dead in his pen at the BC Wildlife Park without a scratch on him.
Following a Sept. 3 thunderstorm, the wildlife park reported that Gustav, the young mountain goat that came to the park’s rehabilitation centre in 2018, had died.
Animal care manager Tracy Reynolds said she was driving around the park the day after the storm, conducting morning checks on the animals, when she noticed Gustav lying motionless up against the wire fence of his enclosure.
Reynolds said she was in disbelief, noting it was immediately apparent Gustav was dead.
“What was shocking was he had no marks on him whatsoever,” she said.
That night, a veterinarian performed a necropsy, which indicated Gustav was electrocuted, creating internal lesions and a hole through his heart. Reynolds said the vet is nearly 100 per cent certain in the cause of death.
She said the necropsy didn’t find any other health issues.
“He was a healthy, juvenile mountain goat,” she said of the 18-month-old animal.
Reynolds suspects Gustav wasn’t the main point of contact, theorizing he was likely leaning up against the fence when the lightning struck it or an adjacent tree, transferring the electricity into his body.
“The fence itself is a good conductor,” she said, noting it is made of cage wire with wood posts.
But, Reynolds added, it is possible a tree was struck by lightning as a tree did come down on the fence line during the storm.
Reynolds said she had a special relationship with Gustav as she took care of him 24 hours a day when he first arrived in the park, having been rescued in the Kootenays as an orphaned kid.
“He still saw me as like his mom,” she said.
According to Environment Canada lightning caused deaths can occur in multiple ways, such as via ground currents, side flashes and conduction. A direct hit, which is responsible for only a small percentage of injuries. There are also ground currents, side flashes, being in contact with an object struck by lightning, upward leaders or streamers and shock waves.