IberiaNature A guide to the natural history of Spain
By Nick Lloyd - Home - Contact

Lightning in Spain

23/07/2006 This photo, taken a few kilometres from the Forest of Irati, was sent to me by two friends of mine Juanki and Isabel. The five horses were killed by lightning. Their flesh was then eaten by vultures. The carcusses were hollow. No meat remained.

Millions of bolts of lightning fall on the Iberian Peninsula every year. Between 1941 and 1979, some 2,000 people were killed in Spain (1.6 deaths per million inhabitants). Today there are less people in the countryside but some 10-20 still die every year. Tens of thousands of heads of livestock (France 20,000) are also killed. Source. The record number of bolts counted in one day in Spain is 60,201 on 17th August, 2003 .

On the subject of livestock deaths, there has been a flurry of reports from Northern Spain recently that griffon vultures have been killing cattle. Among the wild claims is this reasoned piece from Noticias de Navarra. Griffon vultures (buitre leonado Gyps fulvus) do not have talons for killing animals. They have evolved as carrion eaters. They cannot turn in a couple of generations into eagles. They will only attack a sick, cordoned or newly born animals. 2500 pairs of vultures in Navarra is certainly a healthy population but is by no means an unnatural overpopulation.