Lightning Strikes Tree, Kills Bear in Woodland Park

By Paula Liu

A bear was killed when lightning struck the tree it was in. It happened in Teller County on the night of Aug. 12, according to multiple reports.

In a tweet from the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the organization wrote that lightning had struck the tree in Woodland Park during the night on Aug. 12, and instantly killed an old bear that was in the tree at the time.

“Lightning doesn’t just kill people in Colorado. This tree in Woodland Park was struck by [lightning] late Monday night. Unfortunately, this old bear was in the tree,” the tweet read. Tim Kroening, an officer who worked for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, said he thought the bear weighed around 300 pounds.

The spokesperson for the Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Jason Clay, said that they weren’t able to give the exact age of the bear. They were able to determine that it was an old bear based on its weight. He also said that the official cause of death was a lightning strike. However, the bear would have died had it fallen out of the tree, if it had climbed high enough, according to MSN.

Lightning strikes weren’t common causes of bear deaths, but they do occur. The same threat applies to other wildlife as well, such as the bighorn sheep that live on Mount Evans, according to Clay, MSN reported.

“As it relates to our wildlife, nature is tough,” Clay said, “and this is unfortunate, but it’s the same [danger] as it were a human.”

“They work hard at making a living and making a living can be tough sometimes,” Clay said.

According to Fox Denver 31, lightning is abundant in Colorado at this time of the year. Lightning is not the only hazard as severe weather such as hail and tornadoes also occur. The news outlet reported that lightning hits the ground around 500,000 times per year, and the state is ranked 19th for the number of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in the United States.

The news outlet warns viewers that there is very little chance for a person to be hit by lightning. The odds are much less than one in a million. However, there are certain aspects of activities that may put a person at a higher risk than others according to the Fox Denver 31. When people are outside, that puts a person at a higher risk than if a person were indoors.

In terms of weather-related deaths, lightning strikes rank as one of the leading causes with an average of 30 deaths per year in the United States.

Lightning Strikes Kills Two Students

Two Pennsylvania teenagers, both recent high school graduates, were killed by a lightning strike while next to a lake in June.

They were struck just before 4 p.m. at Mammoth Park in Mt. Pleasant Township, reported TribLIVE. Brendan McGowan and Kaitlyn Rosensteel, both 18 had injuries consistent with a lightning strike.

The pair was pronounced dead about an hour after the strike.

Witnesses told the authorities that they heard a loud crack before a flash of light, reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They then saw the man and woman underneath a large tree that had splintered.

The teens were fishing, a witness said, reported WPXI.

The strike happened during a thunderstorm that moved through Westmoreland County.

“It was a generic-looking thunderstorm,” said Matthew Kramar, a weather service meteorologist. “Any thunderstorm can be very dangerous because of lightning. It doesn’t have to be a severe thunderstorm.”

It’s believed the lightning strike killed McGowan and Rosensteel; an official confirmation is pending an autopsy. The Westmoreland County Coroner’s Office said their injuries were “consistent with being struck by lightning,” reported WPXI.

NTD Staff Writer Zachary Stieber contributed to this article.